Eminent expert on cave paintings, Jean Clottes, launches Open VISIONS Forum season at Fairfield University September 16


Image: Jean ClottesFairfield University's dynamic lecture series from University College, Open VISIONS Forum (OVF), launches its 2009-10 season Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. with internationally acclaimed French archaeologist Dr. Jean Clottes. Clottes is an expert on cave paintings and his first-hand knowledge of the 32,000-year-old cave paintings of the Chauvet Cave will uncover many of the ancient mysteries held by these antiquities and illuminate the new thinking that has resulted in this discovery.

Joining the University in co-sponsorship of this event, which will be held at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, is the Fairfield Museum and History Center along with the University's Visual and Performing Arts Department's Art History program.

"The timing of Dr. Clottes' lecture could not be more appropriate for Fairfield's core curriculum," said OVF Director Dr. Philip Eliasoph. "Our 'Intro to Art History I' students - traditional undergraduates and 'lifelong learners' - are studying, that week, the wonders and mysteries of Palaeolithic art. This event is perfectly synchronized within our academic curriculum."

Clottes will show slides during his lecture that pinpoint examples of insights gleaned from this remarkable treasure. Joining Clottes and Eliasoph onstage for a conversation following the lecture, will be Dr. David Crawford of the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology, an expert in Berber tribes of the Atlas Mountains.

When asked to comment on the Museum's partnership with Fairfield University for this important event, Executive Director Michael Jehle said, "Unearthing the culture and artistic expressions of the past is part of the Fairfield Museum and History Center's educational mission. We are honored to welcome Dr. Clottes and to help inaugurate a new Open VISIONS Forum season with our partners in community education at Fairfield University."

A native of the Pyrénées, Clottes was appointed director of prehistoric antiquities for the Midi-Pyrénées in 1971 and for nearly thirty years he led excavations of Early Palaeolithic, Upper Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age sites throughout southern France.

In 1998 Clottes headed the research team that appraised the extensive Palaeolithic cave in the Ardèche Valley, whose paintings, dating back some 30,000 years, rival those at Lascaux in terms of number, diversity, originality, beauty and state of conservation.

In a recent e-mail interview, Clottes indicated that the profound importance of the discovery of Chauvet is threefold, "It is the only major rock art site in the world so far known with such antiquity; the content of the art is quite different from that of the following periods; and finally, many of the Chauvet figures show great artistic mastery and the use of sophisticated techniques has changed the current paradigm about the evolution of art."

Clottes remarked that, "At Chauvet, about 70% of the animals represented were formidable species generally not hunted (hundreds were revealed) - mammoths, lions, rhinos and bear - whereas a few thousand years later the hunted species - horses, bison and aurochs, deer and ibex - will be the most common in the art. This reveals a change in their myths."

Struck by the artistry he observed in the cave, Clottes described "... rendering of the third dimension, scraping the outlines to make the figures stand out." He declared, "Some of the painted panels are genuine artistic masterpieces."

According to Clottes, "For nearly one century Prehistoric art had been supposed to evolve from very crude beginnings to the mastery and sophistication of Lascaux 20,000 years ago. Now we know that at least 12,000 years before, some people were able to achieve great art, which proves that the paradigm was erroneous: There had been great achievements (and poor ones...) at all periods of the Upper Palaeolithic."

"The University is very fortunate to have Dr. Clottes share his incomparable, first-hand, on-site expertise of Stone Age painting," said Eliasoph. "Having one of the world's leading authorities teaching these young minds and our community audience is yet another compelling example of Fairfield's educational excellence."

Tickets for Open VISIONS Forum are $45 and are available by calling the Quick Center Box Office at (203) 254-4010. Directions: Fairfield University is located off I-95, exit 22 at 1073 North Benson Road, Fairfield, CT 06824.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 19, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 35