Ancient Greek Art – Introduction

The "Classicals"

When we think about “Ancient Greek Art” immediately our brain jumps to the beautiful classical sculptures in white marble and the majestic and flawless temples…

…well there are many surprises!

Hi Art lovers!

I know that a lot of you were waiting for this moment: today we are going to start a new series about the Ancient Greek Art!

When we think about “Greek Art” immediately our brain jumps to the beautiful classical sculptures in white marble and the majestic and flawless temples. Well we are not wrong, but we will see how there are many myths, wrongs beliefs and surprises about it.

First of all we need to specify that the “Ancient Greek Art” starts from about 1000 BC. However, what it is still a sort of mystery is that little is known about art in Greece during the preceding 200 years. Reason why we talk about Greek Dark Ages.

Before 1200 BC, instead, we have many evidence about Greek Neolithic Art followed by Aegean Art.

The 4 Stages

With a clearer role of art in the society, thanks to more stable government policies, 1000 BC represents a big change. As a consequence, that is why is conventionally considered the start of Ancient Greek Art.

Actually this period of time is stylistically divided into four stages:

1 – Geometric: from 1000 BC to 700 BC

2 – Archaic: from 700 BC to 500 BC

3 – Classical: around 500 BC, shortly before the onset of the Persian Wars, and 336-323 BC, reign of Alexander the Great

4 – Hellenistic: 323 BC, death of Alexander the Great, until 31 BC with the conquest of the Greece by the Romans after the Battle of Actium.

It is important to say that there was no sharp transition from one period to another. The division help us to organize better the styles. However, artists were developing art at different speeds and, like I often say and I want that you remember, their work was consequence of local tastes and styles, needs, skills,…

The Geometric Stage

For the moment we are not going to talk deeply about the Geometric Art because is a phase characterized largely by geometric motifs in vase painting.

The vases had various uses or purposes within Greek society and, because of that, different shapes, but on all of them the geometric decorations were the key.

Dipylon Amphora, Geometric Style

This is just one of the most famous example. We can see a funerary scene in the middle and the only other “figures” on the vase are goats on the neck. All the rest of the vase is decorated with geometric motifs.

And here a first surprise: often you will see swastika decorations on the potteries. In the Eurasia cultures it is an ancient symbol of divinity and spirituality while in Western world it was a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck. Just in 1930s it became a feature of Nazi symbolism. As a consequence, that is why now we give it a negative implication. But we need to remember that for the ancient population it was the opposite: meaning positivity and life.

ancient-greek pottery with geometric decorations
Ancient Greek pottery with geometric decorations and swastika

In the next posts we are going to focus on the Archaic phase to be able to appreciate more the evolution of the Ancient Greek Art in the Classical and Hellenistic apex. After giving a general overview of the Greek situation at that time, we are going deeper in some amazing works of art characterized by elegance and proportions!

Stay curious!

Share with your friends

Watch the video of this introductory post about Ancient Greek Art!

Leave a Reply