In the B.C. ages, the Ancient Greeks became renowned for their mathematical genius and political intrigue when they invented democracy. Not to mention the most attractive aspect of all; when they looked at art through the distorted eyeglass of western civilization. During the Classical Ages, they also had a plethora of great historians, and developed the style of storytelling and recounting historical actions known as the Severe Style, which is still very popular today.
Aside from the Greek’s love of architecture was art, of course. The different ages inspired the architectural progress between the ages. You can look at a pillar from any Greek period and, without actually knowing it, take one look at the details near the top and bottom of the column or the material and figure out which age it’s from. Art inspired architecture, and architecture inspired art; these two tenets of Greek culture were the basis of not only western society but what also call art today.
There were three periods of time that mattered the most for the development of art. The Archaic Period, the Classical Period, and the Hellenistic Period. All three of the different ages gave monumental advantages in the techniques performed in creating art.
The Greek sculptors from the Archaic Period made statues of people, mostly, called Korai (for women) and Kouroi (for men). All of these statues had similar features, except for the differences in the busts for the different genders, and were sculpted with their arms stiffly at their sides. Both of the two variations of statues were clothed in loose fitting robes and held no distinctive poses or mannerisms.
During the time following the Archaic Period, known as the Classical Period, the artists and sculptors would craft the same kind of monuments and statues, but in different poses, with a more relaxed stance. They were also far more detailed than the previous ages’ statues. Before, when it had been a rectangularly shaped loose-fitting toga, it transformed into breastplates and armor with very individual and precise details, with each statue that an artist created becoming more beautiful and renowned than the previous. Some of the postures that were now being crafted were even action scenes. Some of the most famous and brilliant examples from this period were the statue of Zeus at Olympia and incredibly well known Athena at Parthenos statue. This statue may be the most famous work of art to come out of any Greek period, since the inception of its style.
After Alexander, the Great had already conquered most of Asia and East Asia, the sculptures and artwork of the Greeks had become heavily influenced by all of the different cultures that had originally intermingled with the culture and society of the Greeks. This period is also known as the Hellenistic Period. This new age of art saw new subjects, not just men in armor or gods, like women, children, and animals being incorporated into the art and mosaics. Some of the more widely known works of art from the Hellenistic Period include the Dying Gaul, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo.
Greek sculptures as a whole were meant to show perfection in the way they were designed. Their goal was to create near lifelike images of humans and other things. Unlike their competitors, the Romans, they never allowed any art to be displayed that had any imperfections, no matter how minuscule.
However, not all of the ancient Greek’s art was in the form of marble statues. Modern historical records from reputable sources indicate that painting was one of the most enjoyed art forms of its time. Sadly, less than a handful of these paintings have survived over the millennia, since the majority were painted on wood and canvas, both of which are very susceptible materials.
The legacy of the ancient Greek’s art is one to be admired and studied. Greek art and architecture have had an incredible influence in today’s society, and societies prior. The artists during the period of the Renaissance were even inspired by the art of the Greeks. If we’ve aroused your curiosity, you can take an online class through Khan Academy on Ancient Greek and Mediterranean art!