Ice Age Art: The Arrival of the Modern Mind



Bison sculpted from mammoth ivory. Found at Zaraysk, Russia, about 20,000 years old. Zaraysk Museum of Art and History. Dr Sergey Lev.

An exhibition 40,000 years in the making.

Discover masterpieces from the last Ice Age drawn from across Europe in this groundbreaking show. Created by artists with modern minds like our own, this is a unique opportunity to see the world's oldest known sculptures, drawings and portraits.

These exceptional pieces will be presented alongside modern works by Henry Moore, Mondrian and Matisse, illustrating the fundamental human desire to communicate and make art as a way of understanding ourselves and our place in the world.

Ice Age art was created between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago and many of the pieces are made of mammoth ivory and reindeer antler. They show skilful, practised artists experimenting with perspectives, scale, volumes, light and movement, as well as seeking knowledge through imagination, abstraction and illusion.

One of the most beautiful pieces in the exhibition is a 23,000-year-old sculpture of an abstract figure from Lespugue, France. Picasso was fascinated with this figure and it influenced his 1930s sculptural works.

Although an astonishing amount of time divides us from these Ice Age artists, such evocative pieces show that creativity and expression have remained remarkably similar across thousands of years.


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The 'Lion Man' – a 32,000-year-old lion-headed man, carved from a mammoth tusk, from Hohlenstein-Stadel in Germany  - Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Guardian


The oldest known portrait will go on public display for the first time at the exhibition. It is the head of a woman, carved in ivory some 26,000 years ago. It was discovered in the 20s in Dolní Věstonice, a valley in present-day Moravia that was teeming with mammoth and reindeer in the last ice age  - Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Guardian


A 23,000-year-old abstract figure from Lespugue, France. Picasso was fascinated by it and it influenced his 30s sculptural works  - Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Guardian


Women and bison etched on a bonePhotograph: Graeme Robertson/Guardian