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Ice Age sculptures reside with a Modern Master
2010 May 06


A current exhibition sees Jill Cook, Senior Curator of Prehistory and Europe of the British Museum, installing Ice Age sculpture in the Henry Moore Institute.

I strongly recommend a visit to this exhibition: it is a very fitting venue for the 13,000 year old stone sculptures, found in the French Courbet Cave, for example, to end up in the imaginary hands of a legendary sculptor.

I predict you will be intrigued by the artistic beauty and craftsmanship, as well as the concepts behind this ancient art. Jill Cook invites you to ponder on these earliest of sculptures:

....‘The purpose of these drawings on bone is unknown but both these little masterpieces show an appreciation of three-dimensional form and perspective achieved through composition and shading.’....

....’The reindeer head on the right has its head up and the line of its jaw is drawn as if it is bellowing.’....

....’they possibly functioned as both tools and weapons. Did the decoration personalise the object or empower the user?’....

As Stephen Feeke, Curator of the New Art Centre suggests, ‘As modern onlookers, we see that although our intentions may be different, our artistry and intellectual achievements have been the same for a very long time.’

He goes on to ask ‘When does sculpture begin? This exhibition presents eighteen Ice Age objects from the British Museum which suggest that its origins could reach as far back as 13,000 years. Ice Age Sculpture is the second in a series of intriguing Gallery 4 shows that examine natural materials as sculptural objects.

Overshadowed by their more famous counterparts, the cave paintings of Lascaux, Niaux and Altamira, these ingeniously small and perfectly formed objects were found in locations across South Western France. Here they are presented as art for the first time and they invite us to reflect on the way that carving transforms natural forms and materials.

The objects date from the age of the great painted sanctuaries in the caves of South Western France. They were created by people who lived by hunting, and as a group, they demonstrate the quality of carved and engraved images made with stone implements. Some depict their subjects – animals and women – with remarkable realism; others are sketched, abstracted, caricatured and sometimes surreal. Equally, the manner in which their makers have dealt with composition and perspective to produce works on bone, antler, ivory and stone compel us to recognize their skill and creativity and indeed to recognize them as artists.’

Exhibition until 20 June 2010
Curated by Jill Cook and Stephen Feeke

Gallery 4
Henry Moore Institute
The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AH
+44 [0]113 246 7467
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