Illustration: The Art of Ornament

The jury is still out, undecided on exactly when illustration first came into existence. Some consider early man's first marks on a cave wall, usually depicting his victories in the hunt for dinner - a dead woolly mammoth or maimed sabre-tooth tiger - to be the first attempt by man to communicate through visual language. The flipside of this argument is that the first illustrations, in the true sense, came about with the illuminated manuscript - the earliest surviving examples of which are from the period between AD400 and AD600.

Whichever side of the fence you're on, one thing is clear: the caveman didn't sit around painting long enough to over-embellish, to decorate or to add superfluous ornamentation. 30,000 to 40,000 years ago it was a straightforward graphic message he was after. Decoration and ornamentation would have to wait a while to come into vogue, but when they arrived, they did so in style.

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