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Sculpture and Art in Ancient Greece

Sculpture and Art in Ancient Greece



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Published by: loan.khong on Nov 02, 2008
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Sculpture and Art in Ancient Greece
Greek art and sculpture has had a profound effect throughout the ages. Many of the styles have been reproduced and copied by some of what the modern dayaudiences would class as some of the finest artists to have ever lived e.g.Michelangelo. Western art and sculpture derived from Roman art, while in theEast, Alexander the Great's conquest gave birth to Greco-Buddhist art, which haseven had an influence as far as Japan all of which stem from ancient Greek art. The Greeks used many different types of materials in their sculptures includingstone, marble and limestone as these were abundant in Greece. Other materialssuch as clay were also used but due to their brittle nature very few have survived.Greek sculptures are very important as the vast majority of them tell us a storyabout Gods, Heroes, Events, Mythical Creatures and Greek culture in general.Many of the statues that have survived are actually of Roman origin. Like manypeople today the Romans had a deep respect for Greek sculptures and many werecopied. If the Romans had not made these copies, many of the Greek Legends andstories that we know today would have been lost to antiquity. Greek sculpturesare mainly divided into 7 time periods - Mycenaean Art, Sub-Mycenaean or DarkAge, Proto-Geometric, Geometric Art, Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic.Mycenaean art is the first era in which we find surviving examples of Greek art. This era dates from around 1550 BC to 1200 BC on the Greek mainland. Duringthis period there were two separate civilisations living on the mainland, theGreeks and the Mycenaeans. The Greeks at the time learnt a lot from theMycenaeans, who where more technologically advanced. The Greeks learnt howto build gates and tombs (such as Agamemnon's tomb in the 'Bee-hive') and howto use different metals in art, using Mycenaean techniques. The famousCyclopean Wall of Mycenae before the lion gate is a good example of theirmasonry skills. The Mycenaeans were also fantastic goldsmiths which can be seenfrom finds such as 'Agamemnon's Death Mask' found in a grave dating back to the16th Century. Other items such as ivory figures (the head of a warrior with boars'tuck helmet) and a Rock Crystal 'sauceboat' dating between the 16th and 13thCentury show they could craft out of other materials as well.Around 1200 BC, attributed to the Homeric Fall of Troy, seems to be the down fallof Mycenaean art, this time period being known as the Sub-Mycenaean or theDark Ages. This time period lasted from around 1100 to 1025 BC and very fewexamples of statutes or art have been found. The few items that have been foundshow no new methods or innovation. This is probably due to the constant warsand invasions which crippled the growth of their civilisation during that time. The next phase (ca. 1025 - 900 BC) is known as the Proto-Geometric art era. Webegin to find pottery starting to be decorated with simple shapes, wavy lines andblack hands. It is thought that this time period was the Greeks' first expression of reviving their civilisation. With the invention of faster pottery wheels and otherinnovations it is believed that experimenting with pottery began. Notableexamples of this era have a broad horizontal band about the neck and belly,concentric circles applied with a compass and multiple brushes. They are mainlyof abstract elements.
Geometric Art dates from around 900 - 700 BC and was a dramatic transformationthat led to the establishment of primary Greek institutions such as the Greek city -state (polis) and the Greek alphabet. Sculptures and carvings began to be maderepresenting each city states' heroes and past legends including animals andhumans. The growth of new trade routes and the opportunities for colonisationpermitted Greek art to flourish. Large temples and sanctuaries were built intribute to the Gods and were furnished with precious statues and art. The armedwarrior, the chariot, and the horse are the most familiar symbols of the Geometricperiod. The only thing that was yet to emerge from this newly burgeoning Greekpassion for the arts was the solid stone statue.With the newly established trade routes in the Levant and the Nile Delta we beginto see an amalgamation of Greek and oriental art. This led to the Archaic age (ca.700 - 450 BC) which showed a more naturalistic style reflecting significantinfluence from the Near East and Egypt. This is known as the Orientalising Phase(735 - 650 BC) and happened gradually. Many Greek artists began to assimilateideas from their Eastern counterparts, starting to use palmette and lotuscompositions, animal hunts and such composite beasts as griffins (part bird, partlion), sphinxes (part woman, part winged lion), and sirens (part woman, part bird).Competition between the Greek artists throughout the Greek mainland andcolonies began to emerge to see who could produce the greatest and mostinnovative marvels. Sculptors in the Aegean islands, notably on Naxos and Samos,
carved large-scale statues in marble. Goldsmiths on Rhodes specialized in fine jewellery, while bronze workers on Crete fashioned armour and plaques decoratedwith superb reliefs. The prominent artistic centres of mainland Greece, notablySparta, Corinth, and Athens, also exhibited significant regional variation. Spartaand its neighbours in Laconia produced remarkable ivory carvings and distinctivebronzes. Corinthian artisans invented a style of silhouetted forms that focused ontapestry-like patterns of small animals and plant motifs. By contrast, the vasepainters of Athens were more inclined to illustrate mythological scenes. Despitethe differences in dialect - even the way the alphabet was written varied fromregion to region at this time - the Greek language was a major unifying factor inGreece as it is today with English speaking countries. Huge sanctuaries andtemples were built and decorated with the finest motifs, as competition was fiercein the Greek world to surpass previous works of art. The Archaic age was bestknown for the emergence of stone statues of humans, such as the limestonekouros (male) and kore (female) statues. Statue of Kouros c.590 BC These new statues showed young humans naked and always with a smile on theirface. The main aim was to try and show perfection in human form, however, themajority of statues came across as rigid and unnatural. Despite these flaws it wasthe Greeks who first invented the free standing statues during this era. Athens, by550 BC, had perfected the use of 'black figure pottery' which it subsequentlysuccessfully exported throughout the Greek world. Among the great painters of Attic black-figure vases, Sophilos, Kleitias, Nearchos, Lydos, Exekias, and theAmasis Painter experimented with a variety of techniques to overcome thelimitations of black-figure painting with its emphasis on silhouette and inciseddetail. The consequent invention of the red-figure technique, which offeredgreater opportunities for drawing and eventually superseded black-figure, isconventionally dated about 530 B.C. and attributed to the workshop of the potterAndokides.

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