The Stone Age: Return from a Bear Hunt (in the Stone Age), 1884
Oil on canvas
Fernand Cormon was one of a generation of artists who were influenced by discoveries made in France about prehistoric man and society. Evolutionary debate and archaeological discoveries, such as that of Cro-Magnon man (homo sapiens sapiens) in 1868, stimulated the public’s interest. Cormon himself was familiar with the theories of Darwin and Huxley, as well as those of a range of French anthropologists and paleontologists.
This painting is a sketch for a much larger canvas, commissioned by the French state to decorate the Musée des Antiquités Nationales in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, outside Paris. It was intended to be one of a series of paintings that together would create a sort of prehistoric art gallery where visitors could 'gaze with contemplation at the venerable figures of our antediluvian ancestors,' although the larger project was never fulfilled.
Cormon’s vision of prehistoric man was conditioned by his academic training (he was Professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris) and based on the idealized forms of Greek and Roman statuary.
Musée des Antiquities Nationales
un Visage pour la préhistoire:
La Dame à la capuche
Randall White et les fouilles