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Geometric Style

• At first, Geometric pottery was decorated only with

abstract designs, but toward 800 BC humans and
animals began to appear
• This is the Dipylon vase, c. 750 BC, from the Dipylon
• Belongs to a group of very large vases that served as
grave monuments
• On the body of the vase we see the dead man lying in
state, flanked my mourning figures; below is a funeral
• The width, density, and spacing of the bands are subtly
related to the vessel, but interest in representation is
• The figures are highly stylized and repeated at regular
intervals; this is a silhouette style that cannot
accommodate overlapping
• The figures merge into an overall decorative pattern
• During this era, the two greatest Greek artistic
achievements were the Homeric epics in literature, the
Iliad and the Odyssey; but the visual art of this period
does not hint at the accomplishment and power of those
poems. During this period, painting and sculpture has
not developed as much as poetry; the Geometric style is
highly formulaic and mostly funerary
Orientalizing Style
• By about 700 BC new motifs began to appear and Greek
art entered a new phase, the profoundly transforming
Orientalizing style, which looks to Egypt and the Near
• Represents a new monumentality and variety with much
• This is a large amphora (vase for storing wine or oil)
from Eleusis: The Blinding of Polyphemos and the
Gorgons Chasing Perseus
• Compared to the Dipylon Vase: ornamentation is
secondary; the major areas are given over to storytelling
and figural representation of heroes, gods, monsters
• This shows the blinding of the giant one-eyed Cyclops
Polythemos by Odysseus and his companions, who the
giant had imprisoned
• The slaying of another monstrous creature is depicted on
the belly of the vase but it has been damaged; we see
only two figures, the gorgons (sisters of Medusa), and
the goddess Athena
• Two technical advances during this time: outline
drawing and incision (scratching in details with a
needle; this allows the artist to create overlappings and
interior lines to delineate anatomy, dress, hair, etc
Archaic Style
•Orientalizing period was transitional; as artists assimilated elements from
the East, the Archaic style emerged; in this era we see the unfolding of the
artistic genius of Greece, not only in vase painting but in architecture and
•Archaic vase painting introduces signatures of artists, distinctive artists’
styles and some of the first clearly defined personalities in the history of
art; this was the great era of vase painting
•This vase represents the black figure technique, in which the entire
design is silhouetted in black against the reddish clay and all internal
details are incised; this technique favors a layered, two-dimensional effect
that complements the curvature of the vase
•This vase by Psiax, Herkales Strangling the Nemean Lion, c.525 BC,
shows a man facing unknown forces in the form of terrifying creatures; it
is grim and violent, with heavy bodies locked in combat, almost merging
into a single unit
•:Lines and colors have been added with the utmost economy to avoid
breaking up the massive expanse of black, yet the figures show a wealth
of anatomical knowledge and skillful foreshortening that they give an
illusion of existing in the round
•Only in details such as the eye of Herkales do we still find the traditional
combination of front and profile views
•This style was not confined to vases; there were murals and panels too
but none survive today
Red-figure technique
• This gradually replaced the older black-
figure method toward 500 BC
• This is a krater for mixing wine by
Euphronios, Herkales Wrestling Antaios
• In this style, interior lines are not
incised but were applied with a nozzle
(like a cake icer) or a brush; the artist
depends less on the profile view than
• He uses interior lines to show boldly
foreshortened and overlapping limbs,
costume details, and facial expressions
• Figures are as large as possible, and
these details allow the artist to explore a
new world of feeling: we see suffering,
pain and fear
Classical Style
• According to literary sources, Greek mural painters of this period, which
began about 480 BC, achieved major breakthroughs in creating an illusion
of spacial depth or perspective, scenes of real dramatic power, and
vigorous studies of human character and emotion. This gradually
transformed vase painting into a minor art.
• Greek painting reached its peak in the fourth century BC with the invention
of the picture for display on an easel or wall
• Roman frescoes and mosaics give us an idea of what these looked like, but
are not always reliable
• The following slide, Battle of Alexander and the Persians, is probably a
later Roman copy of an early Hellenistic painting of 330-300 BC
• Follows four-color scheme (yellow, red, black, white); foreshortening and
precise shadows make this far more complicated and dramatic than
anything we’ve seen so far; it is a realistic depiction of a historical event
• Creation of large freestanding temples began in late
Geometric period; from about 600 BC cut stone was
used throughout except for the roof
• The temple is essentially a weather-proof statue box,
intended to house the statue of a deity worshipped there
• Greek temple architecture is one of the most important
legacies to Western art
• Parts of a Greek temple (required)
• If you have the textbook, review “Reading
Architectural Drawings” (p. 79)
• Greek architecture is identified with the three Classical orders: Doric, Ionic,
and Corinthian (the third is a variant of the Ionic)
• An architectural order is a distinct and consistent architectural style; this term
is only used for Greek architecture and its descendants
• The orders are sets of generally accepted conventions, ensuring that the
elements of the two orders remained extraordinarily constant in kind, number,
and relation to one another
• Each temple is governed by a structural logic that makes it look stable and
satisfying because of the precise arrangement of its parts; it shows and internal
consistency, harmony, and balance
• The Greek orders place a premium on design in architecture (as opposed to
mere building); symmetry and proportion are paramount
• More on the Greek Orders (required)
Temples of Hera I and II
• Hera I (here): c. 550 BC; Hera II (next slide):
c.460 BC, Paesturm, Italy (a former Greek
• Dedicated to goddess Hera, wife of Zeus
• Both temples are Doric but bear striking
differences in their proportions
• Hera I is low and sprawling; Hera II looks tall and
• The columns at Hera I are more strongly curved
and tapered to a relatively narrow top. This
swelling effect, called entasis, makes one feel that
the columns bulge with the strain of supporting
the structure
• In the columns at Hera II the exaggerated
curvature has been modified: the columns are
taller and the capitals are more compact;
combined with wider column spacing, there is a
more harmonious balance
The Parthenon
• Sits on the Akropolis (also
Acropolis, literally “high city”),
the sacred hill above Athens
• The greatest temple on this hill
is the Parthenon, dedicated to
the goddess Athena, Athens’
patron deity
• Embodiment of Classical Doric
architecture; built of white
• More about the Parthenon
The Propylea
• Is the monumental entry
gate to the Western end of
the Akropolis
• Also built of marble
• Features proportions and
refinements similar to the
Parthenon, but on a
steeply rising site
Archaic Sculpture
• Kouros (Standing Youth), c . 580 BC, marble
• Compared with Egyptian statue of Menkaure,
they share a block-conscious quality, both
stand with left leg forward, both planned on a
grid and very formal
• But the Kouros is truly freestanding; it is the
earliest large stone image of the human art of
which this can be said. Arms are separated
from the torso and legs from each other; the
carver cuts away the rest of the stone (only
exception is the bridges between fists and
• Earlier sculptures remain immersed in the
stone, empty spaces between forms remain
partly filled)
• This kore (as the female Greek statue is
called) is more varied than the kouros,
because it is clothed
• Poses the problem of relating body and
drapery; more likely to reflect changing
habits and local differences in dress
• This Kore in Ionian Dress (c. 520 BC,
marble) was made almost a century after
the Kouros on the last slide
• Wears symmetrical linen gown (chiton)
over a heavy assymetrical woolen cloak
(or himmation) beneath
• Folds are highly stylized
• Strong face with mannish face but
characteristic smile and soft tresses that
fall to the shoulders and softly model the
• Kouros (“male youth”) and kore
(“maiden”) sculptures gernerally represent
youth, vitality and happiness
Architectural Sculpture
• Greek temples were designed with sculpture
in mind
• Stone sculpture in temples is mostly confined
to the pediment between the ceiling and
roof, and to the zone below (although Ionians
would sometimes support the roof of a porch
with female statues called caryatids instead
of columns)
• The Battle of the Gods and Giants (north
frieze of the Treasury of the Siphnians at
Delphi), c. 530 BC is executed in very high
relief with deep undercutting; sculptor has
taken advantage of the spatial possibilities
• Arms and legs nearest the viewer are carved
completely in the round
• This is a condensed but convincing space that
permits a more dramatic relationship between
the figures than we have ever seen before in
narrative reliefs
Classical Style Sculpture
• Kritios Boy, c 480 BC, marble
• Figure stands “at ease” due to a stance
called contraposto (or counterpoise);
balancing weight-bearing and free,
tensed and relaxed, bringing about
subtle displacements; these make it
seem more “alive”
• See video excerpt of BBC's "How Art
Made the World” (required) for a
discussion of this sculpture as well as
later refinements
• Zeus, c. 460 BC,
Bronze, almost 7 ft tall
• His physique is a
mature version of the
Kritios Boy,
powerfully defined and
massive, expressing
the god’s cosmic
• Doryphoros (Spear
Bearer), modern
reconstruction of original
of c. 440 BC by
• Now the tense and relaxed
limbs are more sharply
and clearly differentiated;
turn of the head more
• A “perfect” model and
sculptural prototype of the
Greek canon
• More on the Doryphoros
here (required)
Classical Sculpture
• Three Goddesses, from the east
pediment of the Parthenon, c. 438-
432 BC, marble, over life-size
• In fragmentary condition, now
housed in the British Museum (part
of the group of works known as the
Elgin Marbles)
• Represents various female deities
in sitting and reclining poses;
depicts ease of movement even in
• No specific action, violence or
pathos - just a “deeply felt poetry
of being”; thin, “wet-look” drapery
of costume
Hellenistic Sculpture
• Came after Classical period;
generally even more realistic
and expressive but at times
contrived or even contorted
• Epignonos of Pergamon (?),
Dying Trumpter, Roman copy
after a bronze original of c. 200
BC; over 6 ft tall
• This Celtic trumpeter (the
Greeks’ enemy) has been fatally
wounded in the chest in battle
• Depicts a great deal of ethnic
detail, dignity and pathos
• Pythokritos of Rhodes
(?), Nike of
Samothrace, c. 190
• Greatest surviving
masterpiece of
Hellenistic sculpture
• About this sculpture
• Portrait Head from Delos, c.
100 BC, bronze
• Once part of a full-length
statue; man’s identity is not
• Fluid modeling of somewhat
flabby features, uncertain
mouth, and unhappy eyes
under furrowed brows reveal
doubt and fear; this is far from
the heroic perfection of the
Classical period