Ancient Greek Art

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By jwblackwell



9 Questions

What is the most surviving form of Greek art?

Which period of Greek art saw the decline in quality and originality?

What was the most important sculptural form in the Archaic Period?

What marked the Classical period as a revolution in Greek statuary?

What was the highest form of sculpture in Ancient Greece?

What was the most common and respected form of art according to authors like Pliny or Pausanias?

What was the tradition of polychromy in Greek art?

What was the influence of Greek decoration in the modern day?

What was the rate of stylistic development in Greek art between 750 and 300 BC?


Art of Ancient Greece: A Summary

  • Ancient Greek art is known for its naturalistic but idealized depictions of the human body, with a focus on nude male figures.

  • The rate of stylistic development in Greek art between 750 and 300 BC was remarkable, especially in sculpture.

  • Greek architecture was technically simple but established a harmonious style with numerous detailed conventions, which had a significant influence on Eurasian art.

  • Greek art was created during a time of radical political developments and a great increase in prosperity, with achievements in philosophy, literature, and other fields.

  • Greek art is usually divided into four periods: Geometric, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic.

  • Pottery is the most surviving form of Greek art, with over 100,000 significantly complete pieces, giving insights into many aspects of Greek life.

  • Greek pottery is divided into two main styles: black-figure and red-figure painting, with the latter gradually replacing the former.

  • Greek metalwork was an important art, with vessels and jewelry produced to high standards and exported far afield.

  • Monumental sculpture in Ancient Greece focused on the human form, with the kouros being the most important sculptural form in the Archaic Period.

  • The survival rate of Greek art differs starkly between media, with pottery surviving the most and painting, fine metal vessels, and perishable materials missing almost entirely.

  • The earliest art by Greeks is excluded from "ancient Greek art", and instead known as Greek Neolithic art followed by Aegean art.

  • There was no sharp transition from one period to another, with forms of art developing at different speeds in different parts of the Greek world. Greek Sculpture: Materials, Forms, and Periods

  • Greek statues were commissioned by individuals or the state for public memorials, offerings to temples, oracles, and sanctuaries, or as markers for graves.

  • Archaic period sculptures were depictions of an ideal, such as beauty, piety, honor, or sacrifice and were depictions of young men, ranging in age from adolescence to early maturity.

  • Graduations in the social stature of the person commissioning the statue were indicated by size rather than artistic innovations.

  • Greek sculptures were mostly made of stone, especially marble or other high-quality limestones, or bronze.

  • Chryselephantine, or gold-and-ivory, statues were the cult-images in temples and were regarded as the highest form of sculpture.

  • Terracotta was occasionally employed for large statuary, with the best-known example being a statue of Zeus carrying Ganymede found at Olympia.

  • The Archaic period saw the reintroduction of stone carving, which was influenced by the monumental art of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

  • The Classical period was a revolution in Greek statuary, with poses becoming more naturalistic, and statues began to depict real people.

  • The Classical period also saw the introduction of relief sculpture for decorative friezes and sculpture in the round to fill the triangular fields of the pediments.

  • The Hellenistic period saw the decline of Greek art in quality and originality, but many sculptures previously considered as classical masterpieces are now recognised as being Hellenistic.

  • Hellenistic sculpture became more naturalistic and expressive, with an interest in depicting extremes of emotion being pushed to extremes.

  • Multi-figure group statues were a Hellenistic innovation, probably of the 3rd century, taking the epic battles of earlier temple pediment reliefs off their walls and placing them as life-size groups of statues.Greek Art and Architecture Summary

  • Scholars have proposed an "Alexandrian style" in Hellenistic sculpture, but there is little to connect it with Alexandria.

  • Hellenistic sculpture was marked by an increase in scale, culminating in the Colossus of Rhodes, which was the same size as the Statue of Liberty.

  • Terracotta figurines were used for votive statuettes or idols, even before the Minoan civilization and continuing until the Roman period.

  • By the Hellenistic period, most terracotta figurines lost their religious nature and represented characters from everyday life.

  • Metal figurines, primarily bronze, were an extremely common find at early Greek sanctuaries.

  • Architecture ceased in Greece from the end of the Mycenaean period until the 7th century when public building could be undertaken.

  • Most of our knowledge of Greek architecture comes from the surviving buildings of the Late Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic and Roman periods.

  • Greek coins set the canon of coin design which has been followed ever since.

  • Painting was valued above even sculpture, and by the Hellenistic period, the informed appreciation and even the practice of painting were components in a gentlemanly education.

  • Panel paintings were the most common and respected form of art, according to authors like Pliny or Pausanias.

  • Unfortunately, not one of the famous works of Greek panel painting has survived, nor even any of the copies that doubtlessly existed.

  • The most important surviving Greek examples from before the Roman period are the fairly low-quality Pitsa panels from c. 530 BC, the Tomb of the Diver from Paestum, and various paintings from the royal tombs at Vergina.Overview of Ancient Greek Art Forms

  • Greek wall paintings date back to the Minoan and Mycenaean Bronze Age and are described in Pausanias, but only a few are preserved.

  • The tradition of polychromy, or painting on statuary and architecture, dates back to the Archaic period and was used to enhance the visual aspects of architecture and sculpture.

  • Greek sculptures were frequently painted in strong and bright colors, with the skin left in the natural color of the stone or bronze.

  • Vase paintings are the most copious evidence of ancient Greek painting, but were not held in high regard in antiquity and are never mentioned in Classical literature.

  • Mosaics were initially made with rounded pebbles, and later glass with tesserae which gave more color and a flat surface. They were popular in the Hellenistic period, often as decoration for the floors of palaces or private homes.

  • The engraved gem was a luxury art with high prestige, with the Greek tradition emerging under Minoan influence on mainland Helladic culture and reaching an apogee of subtlety and refinement in the Hellenistic period.

  • The synthesis in the Archaic period of the native repertoire of simple geometric motifs with imported, mostly plant-based, motifs from further east created a sizeable vocabulary of ornament, which artists and craftsmen used with confidence and fluency.

  • Although glass was made in Cyprus by the 9th century BC, there are only a few survivals of glasswork from before the Greco-Roman period that show the artistic quality of the best work.

  • No Greek furniture has survived, but there are many images of it on vases and memorial reliefs.

  • It is clear from vase paintings that the Greeks often wore elaborately patterned clothes, and skill at weaving was the mark of the respectable woman.

  • Ancient Greek art has exercised considerable influence on the culture of many countries all over the world, and in the West, Greek architecture was hugely influential.

  • Etruscan and Roman art were largely and directly derived from Greek models, and Greek objects and influence reached into Celtic art north of the Alps, as well as all around the Mediterranean world and into Persia.

  • In the East, Alexander's conquests opened up new trade routes to the Greek world and increased the range of gemstones available, and the influence of Greek decoration can be traced to the modern day.


Test your knowledge of the fascinating world of Ancient Greek art with our quiz! From the naturalistic but idealized depictions of the human body in sculpture, to the elaborate patterns of clothing depicted in vase paintings, this quiz covers the major art forms and periods of Ancient Greece. Learn about the stylistic developments, materials, and techniques used in Greek art, and discover how Greek art has influenced cultures around the world. With multiple-choice questions and stunning visuals, this quiz is perfect for anyone interested in art

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