Autochromes Lumière

The Cave Paintings of Henri Breuil

Abbot Breuil and the Spanish Rock Paintings
Contrary to much primitive cave art, Spanish rock paintings are in principle open for all to see. They are however difficult to access, enclosed in wild valleys where, at the beginning of the 20th century, only the shepherds and their sheep ventured. On horseback, from eight to nineteen hours, accompanied by packing mules and guided by a network of locals, the pre-historian Henri Breuil criss-crossed the Spanish countryside for months. In 1919, he figured that he had in total spent more than 56 months in Spain since 1902. He was searching for - and found - sometimes around the bend of a nature rock shelter, through difficult stretches open to inclement weather, a collection of strange and unusual drawings. In total, 267 rocks were studied: 90 in Estrémadure, 76 in the province of Cadiz, 48 in Sierra Morena, 22 in the province of Almeria, 13 in Salamanca, 4 in Malaga, 4 in Murcie and 2 in Grenada. Complex and mysterious, these figures were superposed upon one another (in Estrémadure, he determined there were twelve layered pictures). They are represented on the Autochrome plates essentially in the form of a series of panels composed of signs. They stand out notably by the linearity of the signs, their geometric composition and sometimes by the presence of human and animal-like figures. In these works of art, which we today attribute to the end of the Neolithic period, Breuil wanted to see, if it was not yet writing was "tout au moins 'la page avant celle-ci'."

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