October 17, 2018
Ancient Greek Art and Architecture
Classical Greek art and architecture have left its mark throughout the ages and across the world. The Greeks displayed life, beauty, love, war, tragedy, tradition, and strength in their artwork. Some of their greatest architecture still stands to this day. There are four different periods in which Greek art can be categorized: the Geometric period, the Archaic period, the Classical period, and the Hellenistic period.
To understand how classical Greek style evolved and what made Greek art so impressive; it is helpful to know what was happening in Greece culturally and politically. Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle began teaching during the Golden age of Greek art. It was also when Greek dramatists and play writers like Sophocles and Aristophanes first showcased their theater. The first step towards the world’s first democratic government in Athens was Draco’s Law, published in 621 BC. With Athens gaining domination of Greece in every way, it’s not surprising that Athenian influence is plain to see in their art.
Around 450 BC, Athenian general Pericles began an advertising campaign of sorts to win the populace. He commissioned several temples and building in Athens, all on a magnificent scale, hoping that this would draw tourism to the city and make him and the Athenian way of life more popular than ever. As part of Pericles campaign, he commissioned the Parthenon, which housed the legendary Athena Parthenos. A statue was said to be made of gold and ivory. Other prime examples of classical Greek art and sculptures were created in the Parthenon as well, such as the Birth of Athena and a battle between Poseidon and Athena.
In the early Geometric period, around 900 BC, ceramic vessels were primarily used as funerary items. Repetitive geometric shapes and stick figures were common features on these vessels. These crude stick figures were some of the first depiction of people in Greek art. Later on pottery became more utilitarian and decorative, and the human depictions became more rounded and realistic (Hodge 2006).
From around 700-480 BC, during the Archaic period, vase painting was an important art form. It involved scratching incisions to reveal black silhouette designs and backgrounds of orange clay. Details were then painted in red or white. This technique that the Greeks used was known as the black-figure technique. Around 530 BC, a new technique called red-figure painting replaced chisels with paint brushes. A black background was painted on with brushes, instead of scratching the pottery to reveal a background. Ancient Greeks actually used a complex firing process that used oxygen and created a chemical reaction to seal the color (Britannica 2018).
During the Classical period, from approximately 480-323 BC, the creation and decoration of Greek pottery changed dramatically. The scenes show on the pottery like a window to the past. They included...