The First Paintings!
Many artists today paint pictures in which they make no effort to show the world around them. But when man began to paint pictures, that is exactly what he wanted to do. In caves, where early man lived thousands of years ago, paintings have been found that show animals as lifelike as can be.
These were made by the people of the Old Stone Age of Europe. Many thousands of years later, when the Egyptians had created one of man’s first civilization, paintings were also lifelike. The Egyptians believed there was a life after death, so they painted on the walls of their tombs. They painted everything that went on in their lives. There were figures of men, women, and children with animals, boats, and other objects.
The most artistic people of any age, except perhaps the Chinese, were the Greeks, who were at the height of their glory about 500 B.C. Their focus in sculpture was the emulation of life. but life in its perfect or ideal form.
Christianity, which originated in the Near East, brought an important change in art. The naturalism of ancient art was replaced by Oriental styles with flat designs and symbolism. During the Medieval period, which lasted from about 500 to 1500, the arts of fresco and of illuminating manuscripts were perfected.
Fresco is done by painting with a brush directly into fresh plaster so that when it is dry the picture is a permanent part of the wall. The illustration of manuscripts or books, which is called illumination, was practised by the monks. They made exquisite letters and pictures and full-page illustrations.