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Art of Ancient Greece
Historical Timeline - Early Greece
c. 900-700 B.C. Evolution of Homeric epics Iliad and Odyssey.
776 B.C. First Olympic Games
c. 612 B.C. Sappho born on the island of Lesbos (One of the great
Greek lyrists and few known female poets of the ancient world,
550 B.C. Pythagoras discovers numerical relationship of music harmonies
and our modern musical scale
after 525 B.C. First official version of Homeric epic written
490 B.C. Start of Persian Wars; forces of King Darius defeated at Marathon
480 B.C. Xerxes leads a second expedition against Greece; wins battle
of Thermopylae and sacks Athens;
Greeks defeat Persians decisively at Salamis
c. 440 B.C. Herodotus begins History of the Persian Wars
Historical Timeline - Classical Greece and Hellenistic Period
470-456 B.C. Libon of Elis, Temple of Zeus at Olympia
458 B.C. Aeschylus, Oresteia trilogy wins first prize in drama festival of
449 B.C. Pericles commissions work on Acropolis
447-438 B.C. Ictinius and Callicrates, Parthenon
443-430 B.C. Pericles in full control of Athens
441 B.C. Sophocles Antigone
432 B.C. Peloponnesian War begins
429 B.C. Sophocles Oedipus the King
c. 421 B.C. Euripides, The Suppliant Women
421-406 B.C. Erechtheum
411 B.C. Aristophanes, Lysistrata
404 B.C. Fall of Athens and victory of Sparta
399 B.C. Trial and execution of Socrates
387 B.C. Plato founds Academy
335 B.C. Aristotle founds Lyceum
336-323 B.C. Alexander the Great, king of Macedon
279 B.C Lighthouse at Alexandria
c. 180-160 B.C. Menocrates of Rhodes, Pergamum Altar
146 B.C Romans capture city of Corinth, Greece becomes Roman province
The history of Western Art is based
on the ideals of aesthetics originated
in Ancient Greece.
Time frame for Greek Art:
1000BC to 146BC
Model of Athena from the Parthenon
Origins of Greek Art: 1000-600BC
•The Greek locale and terrain were partially responsible
for the rise of city states that were isolated from each
•After the collapse of Mycenae in 1000BC these small
communities developed their own governance systems.
•The earliest form of pottery is protogeometric (950BC).
•By 800BC semi-circles and zigzags appeared.
•By 750 the human figure appeared.
•With the Dipylon vase narratives began appearing on
Protogeometric vase, 1100BC
Media used: Bronze or stone (Marble).
Figurative sculpture emerged around 800BC.
Influences of Egyptian art can be seen in
Kouros statues.
Kouros, from Attica.
c. 600 B.C Marble, 6’ 1½”
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Kouros (male) and Kore (female)
– primarily male were the earliest forms of freestanding
Greek figurative art.
It is called “closed form” sculpture
It differs from the Egyptian sculpture
a. nude
b. more muscular and less stiff
c. one foot is placed forward
Usually placed at the entrance to a grave
Archaic era: 600-480BC
During this period there was a
strong merchant class and trade across the Mediterranean.
Depictions of the human body became more naturalistic.
Kouros and Kore
Anavysos Kouros shows more relaxed
but retains the “archaic smile” common to
many sculptures of this time period.
It shows closer observation of the human
from real life.
Anavysos Kouros,
ca. 530 BC
Vase Painting:
Black figure style is earlier. Vase is painted with black slip
On red clay pot.
Ezekias is one of the finest artists from this time period
Red figure style is a later and more refined form of vase
a. It uses a reversal of the “figure, ground.”
b. Enabled artists to use finer line and brushwork.
c. Makron was one of the best known makers of redfigure ware. (fig. 2:16)
• A way for society to express certain notions
about themselves.
•During the seventh century BC building
projects turned from mud houses and simple
undressed stone buildings to monumental
public buildings.
•The first specific style to emerge was the
Doric order.
Doric order.
The Doric order is an unique expression
of a geometrically based Architecture
relying on juxtaposition and stacking.
The order itself is traditionally linked to
Dorian and Peloponnesian spheres
of influence. In the earlier periods,
the construction of temples was made
possible by the kings of such cities as
Athens, Corinth, and Syracuse.
This style of architecture
a. Austere with plain
b. Construction
evoked a sense of
and authority.
c. Basilica at Paestum,
Italy is an example of
this early style.
Temple of Hera, Agrigento, Italy
Classical architecture and the Acropolis:
Designed by Ictinus and Callicrates, 477-438.
•Dedicated to goddess Athena
•Uses “entasis” which is the swelling of the columns suggesting
the human hip.
• “Entasis” provides a feeling of strength and elasticity.
•Uses the Doric order.
•This style is still used today to infer power and authority to
public buildings.
Model of Athena,
Nashville TN
Model of Parthenon
When work began on the Parthenon in 447 BC, the Athenian Empire was at
the height of its power. Work on the temple continued until 432; the Parthenon,
then, represents the tangible and visible efflorescence of Athenian imperial
power, unencumbered by the depradations of the Peloponnesian War.
Likewise, it symbolizes the power and influence of the Athenian politician,
Perikles, who championed its construction.
Porch of the Maidens, Acropolis
Ionic order:
• Lighter and more
• Uses a scroll effect at
the top of the
Building upon the same geometric principals
as the Doric temples the basic temple structure
of the two orders are quite similar.
However, the main difference between the
two styles is the decoration of the column capital,
the slender column, a frieze without triglyphs,
and a intricate base.
Porch of the Maidens, Acropolis
Corinthian order:
•Last major order developed by the Greeks
•Uses acanthus leaves in a circular pattern
around top of column.
•Solves the problem
of turning corners.
The Corinthian column is similar
to the
Ionic column in its shaft and base.
Only the capital differs, with its
acanthus leaf, foliage, or flower
Plato and Aristotle:
Plato saw art as a “vain and lowly ambition,
Since it furthers an inferior experience.”
•Art tries to imitate the real world
•Nature is organized in tiers with the highest form being
the ideal form that embodies the essence of things.
•Below these ideal forms stand imitations
•Plato felt that not enough art approached these true and ideal
•Revised this severe point of view when he said that sensory
experience leads to higher knowledge. In that way art
entered the world of ideas rather than imitation.
399 B.C. Trial and execution of Socrates
387 B.C. Plato founds Academy
335 B.C. Aristotle founds Lyceum
Classical Sculpture:
•Classical age is from 479-323BC
•After the sack of Athens a major re-building project
was undertaken to restore Athens and the Acropolis
was begun.
•The major transitional sculpture is the Kritios boy
a. naturalistic
b. relaxed pose called contrapposto
c. pensive expression rather than “archaic smile.”
d. parallels developments in Greek society of the
science of the human form
•Discobolus by Myron illustrates the release of the figure
from the closed form Kouros
•Polyclitus brought the human form to new hieghts with the
idealization of sculpture in Doryphorus.
a. used measurements to create perfect proportions
Foundations of Greek Classical Art:
1.Movement away from idealism
toward greater naturalism
2. Preoccupation with perfect form
3. Representation aiming at realism
Warrior, from the sea off Riace.
C 460 – 450 B.C.
Bronze with glass, bone, silver, and copper
Inlay. Height 6’ 6”
In Greece gods were
portrayed as
humans but were idealized.
Universal characteristics
were used.
Zeus (or Poseidon)
of Cape Artemision:
bronze, ca 460-450 BC,
Greek artists were
comfortable with the human
body and depicted gods
and men as nudes.
Perfect proportion was the goal
of Greek sculptors during the
Classical age.
Perfect proportion implies
internal harmony.
Society was becoming
increasingly self-conscious.
The Hermes of Praxiteles. The statue is dated to 343 BC and is made from
Parian marble. It is the only original work
of Praxiteles, that has survived and it was found
at Olympia, intact on his base, several meters
under the ground. Its height is 2.10 m.
It was dedicated to the sacred Altis from the
Eleians and Arcadians to commemorate their
peace treaty. Later it was moved to the temple
of Hera, where it was found in 1877 AD.
The sculpture, "the diamond of Olympia",
represents Hermes, the messenger of the Gods,
holding the small Dionysos,
who tries to take something from his hand.
Praxiteles looked for perfect proportions
which implies internal harmony.
The Aphrodite by Praxiteles
(c.350 BC) is the first monumental
female nude in classical sculpture.
Upon seeing it, the Greek Anthology
(VI.160) has Aphrodite herself remark,
"Where did Praxiteles see me naked?"
Of it, Pliny says “
...and yet superior to anything
not merely by Praxiteles,
but in the whole world, is the Venus."
Praxiteles, Aphrodite
Realism attempts to recreate reality.
Naturalism is movement toward greater
representational accuracy.
The famous Nike (Victory) of Samothrace.
The Winged Victory, considered the finest
extant Hellenistic Greek sculpture, portrays
the goddess of victory alighting on a ship's
prow, with her wings spread and her clinging
garments rippling in the wind.
The large 8 ft high marble figure,
created by a Rhodian sculptor
between 220 and 190 B.C.,
was discovered on the Aegean island
of Samothrace in 1863 and immediately
sent to the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Hellenistic Art
•Peloponnesian war in 431BC brought chaos to Athens
•Philip of Macedon restored order in 338BC
•His son, Alexander the Great is credited with the “Hellenization”
of the Greek world.
•Hellenistic age was from 323BC to Roman battle of Actium in
a. it attaches emotional turmoil and technical virtuosity
to art
b. Expressive character evident
c. Individual virtuosity of execution
d. Technical formulas more important than new art forms
e. Art reflects the uncertainty of Greek society at this time
f. Portraiture became popular as elite became more
g. Nude sculpture of female form is seen
The Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria
About 270 B.C. On ancient island of Pharos
in harbor of Alexandria, Egypt
Upon its completion, the
Alexandria lighthouse -- commonly
estimated to have been about 400
feet high -- was one of the tallest
structures on Earth. The Greek
architect Sostratus designed it
during the reign of King Ptolemy II.
The Pharos guided sailors into the
city harbor for 1,500 years and
was the last of the six lost wonders
to disappear. Earthquakes toppled
it in the 14th century A.D.
Venus de Milo
Parian marble, h 2.02 m (6 1/2 ft)
Found at Milo
130-120 BC
The style is characteristic of the late Hellenistic
period, which revives classical themes
while innovating. Thus the slipping drapery
on the hips entails a closed stance and
introduces an instance of the figure.
It hides the joint between the two blocks
of marble that were sculpted separately,
as were the left arm and leg,
according to an utterly new technique.
Laocoon was a Trojan priest. He threw a lance at the wooden horse
of the Greeks and warned the Trojans about it. The gods had two
huge serpents emerge from the ocean, and they tore Laocoon
and his two sons apart.
Hagesandros, Athenodoros,
and Polydoros of Rhodes
Laocoon and his sons
c. 175-150 BC
Marble, height 242 cm (95 1/2 in)
By the end of the Hellenistic period both artists and public
seemed a little weary of so much richness and elaboration
and returned to some of the principles of Classicism.
Simultaneously, the gradual conquest of the Hellenistic
kingdoms by Rome and their
absorption into the Roman
Empire produced a new
synthesis in which the
achievements of Classical
and Hellenistic Greece fused
with the native Italian culture
and passed on to later ages.
The Western world of today
is a direct descendant of these Ancient Cultures.