Greek art What is it? Epochs, Representatives and Exponent

Greek art what you want to represent is the human figure in a natural way, both in its formal aspect, and in the way of expressing movement and emotions. The human body thus became the fundamental motif of Greek art, associated with myths, literature and everyday life.

Greek art was characterized by the tireless search for ideal beauty, imagining and representing a perfect world based on the Platonic world.

Thanks to the ancient culture of the Greeks, different foundations were established in the culture of the west and from these foundations various terms and principles of philosophy and art emerged, marking a benchmark for western civilization that will last to this day. Ancient Greek models are held as classics, and sculptural canons and architectural styles have been recreated over and over again throughout Western history.

Characteristics of Greek art

  • He has a high aesthetic idealism, representing, not the crude and direct reality but an idyllic and perfect vision.
  • The proportionality and balance of the elements is used, a fact that highlights his concept of aesthetic perfection.
  • A great interest in reflecting in artistic works the lines of the human figure to perfection both in drawing and sculpture.
  • The human body is the essential foundation of all beauty and all proportion, this trend is called anthropocentrism.
  • It wants to manifest nature, but in an idealized way where the simplicity, proportion, rhythm, clarity and conceptual unity of the work dominate all its artistic forms.
  • They represented social and political life through the vision and imagination of the artist and the aesthetic patterns of the time.
  • In the archaic period the figures were represented static, frontal, with a typical smile and almond-shaped eyes.
  • In the classical period, aesthetics and detail were refined, developing a search to find their own personal aesthetics.
  • A taste for athletics, for athletes with perfect bodies, which inspired the Greeks for many of their works.
  • A great knowledge of anatomy, which allows them to represent the shapes and curvatures of the body in great detail and realism.
  • They use new techniques, managing to endow the sculptural works with impressive dramatic force, a sense of movement and contortions that supported the representation of these emotions.
  • They use the rationality of mathematical measures to represent the ideal proportion in works of art.
  •  It is an art highly influenced by philosophy and where religiosity is governed by a polytheism of anthropomorphic gods, among which Zeus and Athena stand out.
  • Mythology is widely represented, especially in sculpture.

Types of Greek art

Ionian art: it was born taking from the Cretan tradition the inclination to ornamentation, of ornaments, to the sense of the picturesque and the taste for naturalism; and from the Eastern tradition  they dreaded the fear of complete nudity, the fondness for representation of fantastic beings, the stubby proportions of the characters and the painting of vases. They use bronze and marble. They seek elegance and luxury.

Doric art: with especially Hellenic tendencies and tastes, such as perfect harmony, correctness of forms and contempt for what is not essential. The sculptures reveal the athletes’ bodily strength, their muscular bodies, and their serious and austere faces. Bronze is used more than marble, with precise, symmetrical and logical architecture and painting.

Classic art: it is a balance between Dorio and Ionian art, taking from both the most precious elements to create an ideal canon. Aesthetics evolves towards idealism, they seek a desire for abstraction, bringing classical artists to Greek profile and Hellenic serenity.

The periods of Greek art

There are several periods in which the different styles of Greek art that emerged in the Ancient country can be identified, these are:

  • Geometric Stage: began in the 9th century and ended in the 8th century BC. Although there is little information on the period prior to this, which was known as the Dark Ages, it can be intuited that the geometric period was a development of pre-Hellenic cultures.
  • Orientalizing stage: it began at the end of the 8th century and ended at the beginning of the 7th century BC. C.
  • Archaic Stage: started in the 7th century and ended in the 6th century BC. This stage is characterized by the decoration of ceramics with black figures.
  • Severe stage: it started in the late 6th century and ended in the 5th century BC. The decoration undergoes a development which is characterized by bilingual vessels.
  • Classical stage: it started in the 5th century and ended in the 4th century BC. Another way of decorating ceramics is developed again and with it the red figures appear.
  • Hellenistic stage: it began in the 4th century and ends between the 3rd and 2nd century BC. C.

There is no drastic separation between one stage and another, all stages develop and evolve at different rates. Therefore, in all these periods, artists develop different and varied innovative characteristics.

Greek painting

Due to vandalism and natural erosion, few original Greek paintings or copies of them have survived and due to the lack of quality works for the direct study of Greek painting, ceramic painting is often used in the decoration of  the amphoras, the vessels and the plates, of which there are indeed numerous pieces, to extrapolate characteristics and conclusions about the aesthetics of Greek painting. Other sources of study of Greek painting are also used, such as the literary works of historians of Antiquity such as Pliny the Elder or Pausanias of Lydia, who thanks to these texts know that painting was as appreciated as Greek sculpture and the names of the most important Greek painters and the preferred themes.

The main designs that Greek painting had were geometric shapes that did not stand out with the surface, but over time these shapes evolved and were represented with volume, and drawings of plants and animals appeared. A short time later, in the archaic period, the human figure was introduced and soon afterwards mythological scenes were given importance. The painting was used for the decoration of architectural works of all kinds: religious, civil, funeral … The clothes and hair of the sculptures were also painted. The most valued paintings were those painted on wood, but terracotta or marble walls and slabs were used. Ivory, leather, parchment and linen were also used less frequently.

Tempera and encaustic paintings were used for pictorial techniques, and fresco painting on the walls. Regarding the colors of the Greek artists, they used the river red, yellow, black, white, green, blue, purple and brown a great deal and from time to time the most used themes were mythological scenes, legends and historical battles.}


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