Art Invented Humanity

‘In the end, art may not have been our invention at all. It may well have appeared in history as it does in the life of many individual artists: as an outside call, a sudden flash of inspiration, an inner wanderlust exerting such a powerful pull that ultimately we would have to say that Picasso got it wrong: the early humans did not invent art. Art invented humanity.’

From J.F. Martel’s Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice

5 thoughts on “Art Invented Humanity

  1. Nothing new or bold in J.F. Martel’s statement; even if we lose his lukewarm “may” it still retains the whiff of New Age waffle. I would recommend The Success and Failure of Picasso (John Berger) – I’m assuming you were moved by the Martel quote – to persuade you that Art is powered by the human mind not the other way round. Berger isn’t a sentimentalist, he goes for the throat of the thing and does a thorough job of dispelling this kind what? Aphorism?

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    • Berger’s book on Picasso is good, but thanks for the recommendation. This blog functions as a commonplace book. I recorded the statement less as commentary on Picasso, and rather more as part of a personal thought process about Chauvet and the sequence of cave painting. It seems that humans (and possibly Neanderthals before) were minded to create representations of animals long before representing humanoids. I didn’t claim it to be new or bold. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  2. “It seems that humans (and possibly Neanderthals before) were minded to create representations of animals long before representing humanoids.” Forgive me, I’m excited and interested to learn more about this, what is the importance of this discovery, what exactly is it about Martel’s book that inspired you to share this particular quote? I apologize once again for being slow on the uptake, and my god the book sounds fascinating, but funds are in short supply. Many thanks.

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    • This blog functions partly as a commonplace book, where I save fragments for further contemplation. I don’t necessarily agree (or even fully understand) the quotes, but I enjoy reflecting on them. What I find fascinating about the Paleolithic cave art is the marginality of human figures/bipeds compared to the richness of the animal representations. What Martel speculates, if I understand it, is that it was through art that the concept of humanity came into being, rather than the artists thinking of themselves as what: perhaps prey, thinking meat maybe. I am yet to read the whole book, so I cannot vouch for it one way or another.

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