The Art of Ancient Greece

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Chapter 5-Art of Ancient Greece

The ancient Greeks are known as a self aware people. No other culture in western civilization history was quite as introspective as the Greeks. They prided themselves as the most civilized society in the world. In fact the term “barbarian” basically meant non Greek. The development of Greek civilization rises from the ashes of the ancient Mycenaean and Minion cultures. From After the decline and eventual fall of the Mycenaean culture in 1100 BCE, the Aegean Islands would experience a “dark age” period for about 200 – 300 years. By 800 BCE Greece would begin to show growth and stability in their government, economy and culture. This period is referred to as the Homeric Age. The writer Homer would write the stories of prehistoric Greek history (If you have not had to read The Iliad or The Odyssey in your academic career thus far, just wait, it is coming.) It is the Greek culture that would be the basis for western cultures for art, architecture, music, theater, philosophy, literature and politics.

Geometric Period (1000 BCE – 700BCE)

Funerary krater: In year 1050 there is evidence of the development of a specific Greek style. This specific style is found first on the vases/ceramic wares. The decoration on the surface is a narrative of a funeral procession. The figures are very simplified; depicted into very simple geometric shapes; torso and hips are triangular. We see a body lying in state (prothesis) which means this vase could have been used as a grave marker. I do want you to notice that there is more of an attempt to display real human emotions. The mourners’ arms are raised over their head as if in distress. It is no surprise that the Greeks would acknowledge real emotional grief in this painting. They were a civilization that was self aware. Their deities were not only human looking but also had very human characteristics. In fact the only difference between the gods and humans was that the gods were omnipotent. Found to be inscribed on the Temple of Apollo were these words “Man is the measure of all things.” The fact that this was written on the temple of a god says an awful a lot about this Greeks.

Ancient Greek Culture can be broken into 4 distinct styles/periods. The Geometric Period (1000 BCE-700BCE) is the oldest. The funerary krater is an example of that style that n painting. The Man and Centaur is an example of geometric style in sculpture. A man is stabbing a centaur which is half man half beast. We classify this statue as geometric partly because of the date of this piece (750 BCE), but also of the simplistic shape of the subjects. This is a small open form cast statue, unlike the statues of the Egyptian and Near East, which are typically closed form. On the left are two examples of closed form sculpture. The figures do not break or reach out into space. The man and centaur physically reach out to each other, also we can physically move in and through the statue.

The Greeks were excellent seamen. They would encounter and do business with other civilizations and countries. The art of the Near East, Asia Minor and Egypt would influence Greek artists. Orientalizing is the style that is an assimilation of Greek taste and Eastern iconography. This style was first seen in Corinth, which was the most powerful city state of the Greek culture, as well as a large and diverse trade center. The wide mouth picture or olpe shows the Near East taste for hybrid animals. The black and red colors are also a orient influence. The details are incised (scratched) in the figure. The amphora vase displays larger and curvy figures in the neck of this vase. The geometric patterns, first seen in the Geometric style, are also part of the Orientalizing vases. On the neck of the vase are an illustration of Odysseus and his crew fighting the Cyclops Polyphemos. Their rendering is very reminiscent of Minion Cretes figures. There...
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