The cave of Altamira is the epitome of humankinds creative spirit. All the essential features of art converge at Altamira par excellence. Artistic techniques (drawing, painting, engraving), the treatment of shape and use of the medium, large formats and three dimensionality, naturalism and abstraction, symbolism: its all here at Altamira.
Altamira was described by Henri Moore in 1934 as the Royal Academy of Rock Art, a source of inspiration for the artists of The Altamira School, for Miró, Tapies, Millares, Merz and Miquel Barceló, who wrote of his art: Upon my first visit to Altamira, it struck me as like going back to the beginnings; it is the most fertile place. To believe that art has made much progress from Altamira to Cézanne is a Western pretension, vanity..
The cave of Altamira has the privilege of being the first place in the world where the existence of rock art from the Upper Palaeolithic age was identified. Its uniqueness and quality, the stunning conservation, and the freshness of its pigments meant its acceptance would be delayed by a quarter of a century. At the time, it was a scientific anomaly, a discovery that constituted a giant leap and not an incremental step, and the phenomenon was difficult to understand for the society of the nineteenth century, gripped by extremely scientific and rigid propositions.
Bison, horses, deer, hands, and mysterious signs were painted or engraved over the 9,000 years during which the cave of Altamira was inhabited (22,00013,000 before the present). These representations extend for a length of more than 270 metres throughout the cave although the best known are the famous polychrome paintings. Conserving their excellent condition is a challenge for science and heritage management and is the priority and raison dêtre of the Museum of Altamira.