Greek Art Over a period of time Greek art of the past has changed and evolved into what we value in todays society as true art and services as a blue print of our tomorrow. As we take a closer look at the Geometric Period and stroll up through the Hellenistic Period allow me to demonstrate the changes and point out how these transitions have servide the elements of time. During the geometric period the Greeks style of vase painting was know as Proto-geometric because it was preceded and anticipated the Geometric style – was characterized by linear motifs, such as spirals, diamonds, and crosshatching, rather than the stylized plants, birds, and sea creatures characteristic of minoan vase painting. Artist of the geometric time period created decative funerary art to be placed at the tombs of there dead. These pieces were made of ceramic and created in the form of geometric shapes, hence the time period.
One such piece is a vase from the Dipylon Cemetery, (750 BCE) its over-all shape is like that of a hemisphere supported by a cylinder. We also notice that the vase is divided into registers and here the humans are depicted as part of a narrative. The body of the deceased is placed on its side and set on what would appear to be a pedestal in the center of the top register. The form used to represent the human figures are somewhat abstract. For example triangles are used for the torsos, the head is a triangle in profile, round dots would stand in for the eyes and long thin rectangles would serve as arms. The figures have tiny waists, and long legs with bulging thigh and calf muscles.
The abstract designs were painted with a clay slip and to still a page form the Egyptians, all the humans were shown as full-frontal or full-profile views that emphasize flat patterns and outline shapes. However unlike the Egyptian funerary art the Greeks focused on the survivors, not the fate of the dead. During this period it was customary to create vases that did not contain supernatural beings, nor made reference to the afterlife that might have provided solace for the bereaved. Another early piece that surfaced back in the late tenth century was the Centaur, half-human, half-horse. The Centaur was also created using geometric shapes. The human head was a round modeled out shape with no strong features or definition.
The arms and torsos are rectangular shaped with no muscle tones or anything that would tell its viewer that this was a creature of strength. The legs and back animal half are cylinder shaped with small bulges that would seem to represent perhaps muscles. The Centaur also displayed on the body painted on geometric shapes. (cubes, pyramids, diamonds, etc.) As time progressed so did the Greek art, the time is 470 BCE and we find ourselves in the Classical Era. Here were able to notice a considerable difference in the Greek art.
As artist the Greeks have moved away from geometric shapes and found themselves using such words as balance, harmony proportion and cemetery. Artist of the Classical Period took the geometric shapes and reworked them to there own liking Pan Painter created the vase Artemis Slaying Actaeon, and in this piece he shows us that there still using ceramics as artist did in the geometric period only now the figures are red. The vase of Dipylon used decorative registers with repeating motifs to narrate; here the registers are still used with a beautiful maze motif but there made smaller in efforts to place more attrition on the image being displayed. The human images on the Dipylon were flat geometric shaped people that had very little features. Painters vase offered movement, realism, and detail in the cloth the people wore.
Taking a closer look we can now define some of the techniques used here that were not used early on. Not only are the figures much larger but now we have balance in our composition. ( Artemis has all her weight disturbed on her right leg and Actaeon although on the ground uses his left arm to support himself.) Harmony ( Artemis has her right arm bent as well as her right leg. The left leg is stiff to go along with the stiff left arm.) Painter shows us cemetery in his composition ( By dividing the two images in half we see the composition has the same weight on the left thats on the right.) And proportion ( both figures evenly scaled.) Unlike artist of the geometric period Painters art was inspired by the myths of the gods as opposed to early artist who created funerary art and focused on the survivors. A good artist can take an image from the past and transform it into a beloved piece of the future. Notice the triangle shape in Paintings piece that ties both images together. The Classical period made a big impact on the sculptures of that era. When we look back at the Centaur of the Geometric Period and compare its human features to something like the bronze sculpture of Zeus it just doesnt seem fair.
No more full-frontal or full-profile views of images, we now have freestanding sculptures. No more geometric shapes to represent body parts, we now have muscle tone and definition. The bronze statue of Zeus was the Classical era at its best. It displays balance, harmony, cemetery, and proposition as well as it gives us a sense of realism and naturalism. The artist brings out smooth facial features and defines the body as having strength and power.
Hes anatomically correct. The use of bronze also allowed artist to twist and turn their models to create a pose that seemed to capture a nature feeling. Just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any better artist found themselves making a change from the Classical Period to the Hellenistic Period. It was at this time that artist could standup and say that they had truly arrived. The Hellenistic period produced a Varity styles, techniques, and material.
The period was marked by two broad and conflicting trends. One call anti-classical and the other classical where the artist would choose a piece and rework it into a new style. Such styles were like that of the Gallic Chieftain Killing his Wife and Himself. This piece offers everything that a classical piece would offer only now the artist is looking for a specific emotional response from the viewer, this know as expressionism. Hellenistic artist sought the individual and the specific, they turned away from heroic to the everyday, from gods to mortals. In the Classical Period we watch Zeus come alive right before our very eyes, this freestanding statue tough us words like balance, harmony, and proportion, we learned realism, and naturalism as well as smooth skin and the Canon of proportion.
But the Hellenistic era. has taken all those things and reworked them for the viewer. The artist takes pieces like the Gallic Chieftain and shows his wife limit body being supported by her husband as he plunges the sword into his own breast. As a viewer you fill an emotional bound with the statue and offer your pity and I think thats the response that the artist was looking for. In conclusion we have seen art pieces from the Geometric Period and its simples form reworked into master pieces of the Classical Period.
And in the Hellenistic Period we found out what its like to take a master piece and make it better by touching the harts of the viewers. But most importantly we’ve learned that we live in a forever-changing world and to truly know great art is to know good art.