Saturday 20 August 2016

Classical Art

The art of ancient Greece and Rome - often known collectively as Classical Art - brought into being a wide range of different styles and approaches. The have had an enormous impact on Western Art for many centuries, right up to the present day.

The Laocoon sculpture
The Laocoon sculpture, is one of the most famous of ancient classical sculptures and probably dates from c.200 BC or later. The identity of it's creator is uncertain. It shows the Trojan priest, Laocoon , with his two sons being attacked by snakes. One of the stories related to him was that he and his sons were killed by serpents as a punishment from gods for having broken his vows of celibacy.

Examples of early Greek art include striking symmetrical pottery and stone statues of idealized human forms. Between the 10th and the 8th century BC, the Geometric style dominated Greek pottery. Its abstract, linear forms reveal the love of symmetry and proportion that was so important to the Greek art.

Geometry styled pot

The Archaic period(c.750 - 480 BC) is famous for its kouros sculptures showing an idealized human form. These forward facing nudes show the same symmetry as early Greek pottery. Bronze casting became popular in the 500's, which made side on poses easier to create. This led to much greater realism in the sculptures of later periods.

A kouros sculpture 

The art of classical world took the form of statuary, painted pottery, wall paintings and mosaics, and architecture. Art became more realistic over time, moving from the idealized form of the early period to the realism of the later Hellenistic period(c.323 - 146 BC). 

Workshops in the ancient world at this time produced statues of all styles, in clay, marble and bronze. These were sold all over the known world, to a rising number of private patrons. Before the Hellenistic era, statues were made to mark a grave, glorify a temple or to commemorate a war, vases often had practical uses. Now wealthy buyers wanted portrait of themselves to decorate their villa.

Black figure vase
Greek vases often had dark figures against a red clay background, as in this example, or red figures on black. The painters were highly skilled and the style evolved overtime. The art of floor mosaics, using tiny pieces of colored stones, was invented by the Greeks, but it is the Romans who were famous for their mosaic work. 

The Romans created monumental architecture and statues(Roman Architecture) that celebrated the glories and wealth of their rule. The Romans also used the Greek temple form, often placing it on a platform to make it more impressive and filing it's panels withe sculptures plundered from Greece. 

Zeuxis(5th century BC) was one of the ancient Greece's most famous painters. Ancient writers told a famous tale about him painting an image of grapes that was so realistic that birds tried to peck it. Sadly, none of his works survive today. 

Corinth Column

The Greeks created several different orders(styles) of columns for their buildings, which the Roman later adopted. This column is the Greek Corinth style, which was especially popular in Rome.

 The art of Greece and Rome has influenced many later cultures. Domed buildings perfected by Romans, became a distinctive feature of the Eastern Byzantine Empire. The 6th century church of Hagia Sophia, in the former Byzantine capital Constantinople(now Istanbul) is an example.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

15th century CE Europe rediscovered the art and architecture of Classical Greece and Rome. sculptures and painters such as Raphael in Italy, gained a classical understanding of human anatomy and architects created buildings inspired by ancient Greek temples.   


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