Classical Greek Art

 

480-323 BC

The Classic period of Greek art is what is most often brought to mind when thinking about the artistic achievements of that nation. However, how we see that art today, in its smooth white edifices and sculptures, is not what was seen or intended at the time it was crafted.

Centered in the powerful and cosmopolitan city of Athens, the art of this culture and art movement during this period would influence the importance of art for the rest of time across a myriad of cultures. The sculpture and statuary of Classical Greek Art provide standards not only in our art but in how we view the living human body.

Art History: Classical Greek Art Origins and Historical Importance:

Classical Greek Art - Acropolis of Athens

Classical Greek Art – Acropolis of Athens

Athens was established as a great and powerful city-state after the war with the Persians ended in a Greek victory in 479 BC. Establishing the Delian League, a confederation of allies in the Grecian lands and islands, and maintaining control over the league and its funds, led to the eventual subjugation of these allies by the Athenians. Having this control over the Grecian peoples made Athens a very wealthy imperial city. It also became the world’s first democracy.

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the classic art of Greek wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”  – Robert Kenned

Such wealth led to the building of some of the world’s most venerated buildings. The Acropolis, and its most stately building, the Parthenon, were not only beautifully and harmoniously designed, but they also inspired the statesmen, poets, and philosophers of their day to create the building blocks of the societal values we hold dear in our time. Classical Greek architecture was innovative in its time, bringing us the Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian architectural orders.

Classical Greek sculpture left behind the Kouros (male) and Kore (female) figures of Ancient Greece and began to emphasize natural poses, motion, and focused on an appreciation of human anatomy; particularly musculature. We are familiar with the statues and reliefs carved and hewn from limestone and marble, but sculptors also worked in bronze, wood, bone, and ivory. Bronze sculptures followed the same subjects as stone but were considered superior because the value of bronze was higher than that of stone. Bone and ivory carvings were used for smaller personal items.

Classical Greek Art - Statue of Zeus at Olympia

Classical Greek Art – Statue of Zeus at Olympia

Statues were often painted and this was seen as independent of the sculpting itself. Artists used bold colors to accentuate the hair, clothing, and eyes of the subject but left the skin in its stone form. Metal adornments and jewelry were added as well.

Painters of the era mastered new techniques such as linear perspective, chiaroscuro (shading technique), trompe l’oeil (three dimensional), optical fusion (similar to pointillism, but with lines instead of dots) and graphical perspective. Unfortunately, what Pliny recorded as the highest art, panel paintings, did not survive. However, many frescoes did as they decorated public buildings and places of worship.

Classic art of Greek was about lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness.”  – Thucydides

Pottery, which had been previously quite renowned in both the black figure and red figure styles, went into decline during this period. The only innovation to come out of the period in regards to pottery was the introduction of the White Ground technique which added a painted on clay white background. Following this, no new techniques were brought forth.

Classical Greek Art Key Highlights:

  • The period of Classical Greece was the first in which artists were commonly credited with their works.
  • The Parthenon housed a massive gold and ivory statue of the goddess Athena.
  • Much of what we know about this period in art comes from literature and historical writings from the era, such as those of Pliny. Sadly, we do not get to see what would have been awe-inspiring, colossal pieces that solidified mythological beliefs and celebrated political victories.
  • Praxiteles, an Athenian sculptor, introduced the first modest female nudes. They had been previously draped in cloth, but his Aphrodite of Knidos was nude with her hand modestly covering herself standing next to a draped cloth.
  • The foundation of art history is credited to the school at Sicyon in the Peloponnese, which was recognized as an artistic institution of learning focusing on the cumulative knowledge of art up to that era.
  • The chryselephantine sculpture was a highly regarded form of art. The technique involved carving thin sheets of ivory to represent flesh and gold to represent hair, eyes, and garments. Sometimes jewels were used in place of gold for the eyes. The giant statues of Zeus at Olympia and Athena Parthenos were created by Phidias using this type of sculpture.
  • Reliefs and statues were prevalent and prominent in Athenian cemeteries and depicted love ones interacting with family during their lives, or showed a scene of a family saying goodbye to the deceased. These emotionally moving displays are rendered realistically and naturalistically.

Classical Greek Art Top Works:

  • Acropolis – including the Parthenon
  • Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  • Athena Parthenos
  • Aphrodite of Knidos
  • Charioteer of Delphi
  • Temple at Bassae, Arcadia
  • Leonidas, King of Sparta (sculpture)
  • Youth of Antikythera
  • Tomb of the Diver at Paestum
  • Great Tomb at Verfina

Art History Movements (Order by the period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

Paleolithic Art (Dawn of Man – 10,000 BC), Neolithic Art (8000 BC – 500 AD), Egyptian Art (3000 BC - 100 AD), Ancient Near Eastern Art (Neolithic era – 651 BC),  Bronze and Iron Age Art (3000 BC – Debated), Aegean Art (2800-100 BC), Archaic Greek Art (660-480 BC), Classical Greek Art (480-323 BC ), Hellenistic Art (323 BC – 27 BC), Etruscan Art (700 - 90 BC)

1st Century to 10th Century

Roman Art (500 BC – 500 AD), Celtic Art. Parthian and Sassanian Art (247 BC – 600 AD), Steppe Art (9000BC – 100 AD), Indian Art (3000 BC - current), Southeast Asian Art (2200 BC - Present), Chinese and Korean Art,  Japanese Art (11000 BC – Present),  Early Christian Art (260-525 AD,  Byzantine Art (330 – 1453 AD), Irish Art (3300 BC - Present), Anglo Saxon Art (450 – 1066 AD), Viking Art (780 AD-1100AD), Islamic Art (600 AD-Present)

10thCentury to 15th Century

Pre Columbian Art (13,000 BC – 1500 AD), North American Indian and Inuit Art (4000 BC - Present), African Art (),  Oceanic Art (1500 – 1615 AD), Carolingian Art (780-900 AD), Ottonian Art (900 -1050 AD), Romanesque Art (1000 AD – 1150 AD), Gothic Art (1100 – 1600 AD), The survival of Antiquity ()

Art History - 15th century onwards

Renaissance Style (1300-1700), The Northern Renaissance (1500 - 1615), Mannerism (1520 – 17th Century), The Baroque (1600-1700), The Rococo (1600-1700), Neo Classicism (1720 - 1830),  Romanticism (1790 -1890), Realism (1848 - Present), Impressionism (1860 - 1895), Post-Impressionism (1886 - 1904), Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1880 -1910), Fauvism , Expressionism (1898 - 1920), Cubism  . Futurism (1907-1928 )Abstract Art (1907 – Present Day), Dadasim,. Surrealism (1916 - 1970),. Latin American Art (1492 - Present, Modern American Art (1520 – 17th Century), Postwar European Art (1945 - 1970), Australian Art (28,000 BC - Present), South African Art (98,000 BC - Present)

The Most Loved Art Stories by Our Readers

 

Classical Greek Art  – Major Artworks

Art History Movements (Order by the period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

Paleolithic Art (Dawn of Man – 10,000 BC), Neolithic Art (8000 BC – 500 AD), Egyptian Art (3000 BC - 100 AD), Ancient Near Eastern Art (Neolithic era – 651 BC),  Bronze and Iron Age Art (3000 BC – Debated), Aegean Art (2800-100 BC), Archaic Greek Art (660-480 BC), Classical Greek Art (480-323 BC ), Hellenistic Art (323 BC – 27 BC), Etruscan Art (700 - 90 BC)

1st Century to 10th Century

Roman Art (500 BC – 500 AD), Celtic Art. Parthian and Sassanian Art (247 BC – 600 AD), Steppe Art (9000BC – 100 AD), Indian Art (3000 BC - current), Southeast Asian Art (2200 BC - Present), Chinese and Korean Art,  Japanese Art (11000 BC – Present),  Early Christian Art (260-525 AD,  Byzantine Art (330 – 1453 AD), Irish Art (3300 BC - Present), Anglo Saxon Art (450 – 1066 AD), Viking Art (780 AD-1100AD), Islamic Art (600 AD-Present)

10thCentury to 15th Century

Pre Columbian Art (13,000 BC – 1500 AD), North American Indian and Inuit Art (4000 BC - Present), African Art (),  Oceanic Art (1500 – 1615 AD), Carolingian Art (780-900 AD), Ottonian Art (900 -1050 AD), Romanesque Art (1000 AD – 1150 AD), Gothic Art (1100 – 1600 AD), The survival of Antiquity ()

Art History - 15th century onwards

Renaissance Style (1300-1700), The Northern Renaissance (1500 - 1615), Mannerism (1520 – 17th Century), The Baroque (1600-1700), The Rococo (1600-1700), Neo Classicism (1720 - 1830),  Romanticism (1790 -1890), Realism (1848 - Present), Impressionism (1860 - 1895), Post-Impressionism (1886 - 1904), Symbolism and Art Nouveau (1880 -1910), Fauvism , Expressionism (1898 - 1920), Cubism  . Futurism (1907-1928 )Abstract Art (1907 – Present Day), Dadasim,. Surrealism (1916 - 1970),. Latin American Art (1492 - Present, Modern American Art (1520 – 17th Century), Postwar European Art (1945 - 1970), Australian Art (28,000 BC - Present), South African Art (98,000 BC - Present)