Greek pottery

Greek pottery Variety of Greek ceramics gives us a very complete evolution of its culture .


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  • 1 Features
  • 2 Elaboration process
  • 3 Ceramics of “black figures”
  • 4 Ceramics of “red figures”
  • 5 Polychrome Ceramics
  • 6 Source


The pottery in Greek art constitutes the best and most varied expression in terms of decoration and painting in the minor arts . This variety gives us a very complete evolution of its culture . With its own style and techniques, it is characterized by having varied and original shapes, the geometric elements arranged in stripes predominate, the tonalities of the mud , from yellow to brown gray , it presents figures in red on a black or red background the background and figures black, animal and human forms predominate .

  • Greek ceramics had clayas a base material and used several types of it.
  • The clay of Athenswas rich in iron oxide and with cooking it acquired a beautiful orange- red color .
  • The one in Corinth, devoid of iron oxide, had a whitish color. These differences allow to determine the origin of the ceramic vessels.

Elaboration process

The clay extracted from quarries was purified and then washed for several weeks. It was soaked in large ponds where fine particles rose to the surface and were recovered. This stage allowed to eliminate the impurities that could cause the explosion in cooking. It was then dried in the sun cut into blocks. Then they were stored for some time to acquire their plastic qualities that allow it to be molded. The water of impurities, decantándola recovered and used to draw the decorative motifs. By cooking the drawings resurfaced on the colored background clayey.

Once the paint had dried , the painter gave way to the potter for cooking that was relatively simple in principle, but required attention and experience and had three stages:

  • Cooking in oxidizing atmosphere.
  • Cooking in reducing atmosphere.
  • Cooking in re-oxidizing atmosphere.

We find in the subject of ceramics a large number of forms and decorative motifs: heroic legends , historical themes, athletic games , scenes of everyday life . Proof of its importance and prestige is the fact of being signed by both the ceramist and the painter.

Ceramic of “black figures”

From the 6th century BC the narrative displaces the geometric and the bands disappear, a unique theme in the belly of the glass . The appearance of the human figure , silhouetted in black on ocher backgrounds, is noted here . It is characterized not only by the drawing of black figures on the clay background , but also by the use of incisions.

Ceramics of “red figures”

It appears at the end of the 6th century BC, but its peak is in the 5th century BC The scenes gain in naturalism and expressiveness, perspective effects, sensation of spatial reality are achieved. In this case, an inverse technique is used to that of the black figures in which on a black background there are red figures corresponding to the color of the mud that was used to obtain the mixture of the paint . There is also a greater delicacy in the details and greater complexity in the motives. In addition to the simple inversion of colors , the technique of red-figure pottery allowed an improvement in the drawing, especially in the representation of the drape, of the bodies and of the details, whose precision supplied the almost complete disappearance of the polychromy, winning in the realistic expression.

Polychrome pottery

It also develops in the 5th century BC, when more colors are added . As of this century the evolution of the Greek painting cannot be appreciated taking as an example the ceramic decoration , since a correlation between them will not take place. The mosaics and frescoes of some Roman copies of the most famous painters Greeks (Apelles, painter “official” Alejandro Magno , Soso Pergamon , Theon or Philoxenus of Eretria), show that its evolution continued towards greater naturalism, achieving in the Hellenistic era the domain of volume and perspective.

Indisputably Greek art deeply inspired artists of the time not only in Rome but also throughout the region and who subsequently used the techniques and advances of the Greeks in achieving the perfect representation of the figure; continuing that line and adopting it as the root of his works to which he added his own personal vision as well as the influence that the socio-economic environment inspired in his works. Greek pottery among the so-called minor arts laid aesthetic, stylistic and technological foundations for contemporary and future generations of potters and even painters and mosaic makers.


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