Over a period of time, Greek art has developed many new art forms and ideas. Although they were heavily influenced by Egypt and Mesopotamia, their unique innovations have made the foundation of the Western art. Despite the changes from the Geometric and Orientalizing period to the Hellenistic period, you can see one consistent characteristic. The Ancient Greeks continue to worship their gods and goddesses by building them temples, sanctuaries, and sculptures. There are 12 Greek gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus. The Greeks believed the gods and goddesses came from Earth (Gaia) and Heaven (Uranus).
They also believed the deities controlled over many different aspects of lives in the earth. That was why it was very important to worship them – they would help you in times of need. The Greeks would use a human figure to represent the gods; this would become the focus for many of the Greek artists. The eighth century was when the Geometric period began, which meant human figures were becoming more important. The Geometric period derived its name from the decoration of abstract and geometric motifs in Greek vases.
Monumental kraters were originally made as grave markers, but starting late eighth century these kraters and small bronze figurines have been associated with funerary rituals and sanctuaries. Two pieces that are examples of a vase are the Geometric krater, from the Dipylon cemetery ca. 740 BCE and Dipylon Painter, Geometric funerary amphora ca. 750 BCE. On the former vase, the painter did not portray many Geometric features but left the widest parts of the vase for human figures and horse-drawn chariots.
This shows a man being mourned and a chariot in his honor. The latter vase is divided into many bands and has filled every space with abstract decorations. There are corpse and animals, which are in the shapes of triangles and rectangles. It is very two-dimensional and does not show depth. These two vessels helped make a change in Greek art and encouraged the art of storytelling. Following the Geometric period was the Orientalizing period, which lasted from 700-600 BC. The Orientalizing period was when Eastern motifs influenced Greek art.
During that time, the Corinthians introduced a new technique called the black figure painting. A Corinthian black-figure amphora with animal friezes, from Rhodes, Greece, ca. 625-600 BCE shows features of Orientalizing animals. Similarly to the vase painting technique during the Geometric times, the painter must put down black silhouettes on the clay surface. However, he must incise details within the slip. A piece from the early seventh century BCE is the Mantiklos Apollo, statuette of a youth dedicated by Mantiklos to Apollo, from Thebes, Greece, ca 700-680 BCE.
It is uncertain whether or not the statuette is Mantiklos or Apollo, but the purpose of the votive offering is clear. This also shows how much Greek artists are interested in the human body. The fascination of the human body during the Orientalizing period progressed into the Archaic period. The Greeks sculpted a Kouro, a male, and Kore, a female. The figures demonstrated the Greeks’ social expectations of the sexes in their culture. The marble Kouros, from Attica, Greece, ca. 600 BCE, copies the actions of Egyptian statues. He is nude and has his hair braided.
He is facing forward stepping with his left foot is in front of his right foot. Peplos Kore, from Acropolis, Athens, Greece, ca. 530 BCE is an example of a female counterpart to a Kouro. She is standing fully clothed and is usually depicted with jewelry. These two figures of Greek sculpture show what an ideal form would be for men and women. Kouroi would have a muscular, athletic body, while Korai would be youthful, concealed, and fully clothed. They both have an Archaic smile, which was an expression used by the sculptor to portray the figures are alive.
Vase painting was another type of artwork and having learned the black-figure painting technique, the Athenians did well in the business market. Exekias is considered as the master of the black-technique technique due to his details in his intricate engravings and details in emotion. A very well known work of his is the Achilles and Ajax playing dice game (detail of an Athenian black-figure amphora), from Vulci, Italy, ca. 540-530 BCE. A special facet of this amphora is that Exekias did not divide his vase into bands, but used the framed panel to display his artwork.
Unfortunately, the black figure painting technique started to diminish as a new technique, red-figure, began to rise in popularity. The first red-figure paintings were first produced on bilingual vases, painting a black figure on one side and a red figure on the other side. The Andokides Painter first developed this technique in 530 BCE. An advantage to the red-figure technique was the ease of the brush to create a more naturalistic painting. Euphornios and Euthymides are two of the most talented red-figure painters due to their ability to illustrate naturalism.
Greek temples built before the Archaic period did not survive because it was built with wood and mud brick. However, temples built during and after the Archaic period were made out of limestone or marble. The Greeks also began to use a temple plan. This design resembles the Mycenaean megaron. In the ideal temple design, you can see the center cella or naos, with the pronas, or porch, in the front and opisthodomos in the rear. The temples are made up of three different orders: Corinthian, Doric, and lonic. However, I will only go over Doric and lonic.
The two have the same components, but have different types of detail. The Doric order is identified by its columns and freize – the frieze is subdivided by triglyphs and metopes. Most of the decorations were in the frieze and pediments; however, the difference here between the Doric and lonic order is that in the Tonic order, entire frieze and sometimes also the columns were decorated. On the other hand, in the Doric order, the builders would only decorate the “void” in the pediments and metopes. Sculptures on the pediments portrayed heroic or mythological events.
The pediment sculptures on the Temple of Aphaia, Aegina, Greece, ca. 500-490 BCE. , shows a gradual move toward the naturalism of the Classical style that followed the Archaic. The naturalism we’ve seen during the Archaic period carries onto the Early and High Classical periods. This phase of the Early and High Classical periods is called the Severe style. The Severe style is the style of figures with expressionless face and Archaic smiles. Krittos Boy, from the Acropolis, Athens, Greece, ca. 480 BCE. is an example that grasps the aspects of the severe style.
This marble statue is standing how a person naturally stands and the weight shift depicted, which is described as a contrapposto, separates the Classical from Archaic Greek statuary. Henceforth in the fourth century starts the Late Classical period, the Greek sculptors begin to experiment with different poses. Even though the sculptures are moving away from the Classical characteristics, they still maintain idealism and the Severe style. Praxiteles is one of the great artists of the fourth century.
Some of his famous works are the Aphrodite of Knidos ca. 350-340 BCE. nd Hermes and the infant Dionysos ca. 340 BCE. Both sculptures are in their nude flesh because of Praxiteles’s ability to transform marble into flesh. As we move onto the last period of Ancient Greece, we are also at end of Alexander the Great’s reign. The Hellenistic architecture is very sophisticated, therefore required a wide diversity of architecture. Both the Hellenistic architecture and sculpture focuses on a theatrical element and ambition to break tradition. The Temple of Apollo, Didyma, Turkey, was a temple to characterize the ambitious building plan of the Hellenistic period.
The Hellenistic temple replaced the Archaic temple, but it was never completed. The Altar of Zeus, Pergamon, Turkey, ca. 175 BCE. is the most Hellenistic architecture built. It is a monumental lonic building with an altar and its detail of the gigantomachy freize and sculptures of defeated Gauls. This represents the Hellenistic art with the dramatic figures and intense scene full of tension. In this battle, there is Athena, Gaia, Alkyoneos, and Nike. The frieze is known for its high relief and deep drilling of the lines to create dramatic shadows.
The style is describes Hellenistic Baroque for its details and liveliness of the characters. Inside the Altar of Zeus are the dying Gauls. The statue of the Gallic chieftain killing himself and his wife shows the Gaul’s intense facial expression and a lifeless woman’s body. The man’s posture and the intensity of the suicidal act show the baroque style. The other dying Gaul is a defeated trumpeter. It seems he has collapsed since he is looking downward at his blood pouring from the wound of his chest. You can see the pain and death in both the sculptures at any angle.