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Greek Art Essay, Research Paper

Greek Art

By Lizette

There are three major categories of Greek sculpture: freestanding statues, architectural sculpture, and nonarchitectural reliefs. The principal subjects of Greek sculpture are gods, heroes of legend, and athletes, youths, or maidens intended to demonstrate ideals of beauty. Whatever the subject, category, or material, the typical Greek sculpture was basically spiritual in function. Most statues and reliefs were dedicated as offerings in sanctuaries to please or thank divinities, or stood as markers over graves, while architectural sculpture was carved essentially only for temples, treasuries, or tombs.

The determining phase of Greek sculpture closes with sculptures viewed principally from the front. This frontal stance and an advanced left leg prevail in later larger statues in Greece and so initiates the Archaic period. Although, this art phase contained various little changes that had an overall effect, such as freedom of space between the arms and torso, the ?archaic smile?, and on to ornate dressings on woman statuettes.

The characteristics of Archaic sculpture began to define themselves after 675 BC; the style in fact derives some of its elements from Egyptian models. The typical statue depicts a frontal figure short, standing stiffly with a low forehead, face framed by heavy triangular locks of hair.

The Archaic freestanding statues are certainly similar to Egyptian sarcophaguses and cubic figures. The Female Figure and the Standing Youth can be matched up to Menkaure and His Wife, Queen Khamerernebty from Egypt. One leg of the kouros, usually the left, strides forward, while he holds his arms stiffly at his sides. The feet are blocked shaped, the eyes are all round and bold, while the Greek kore and kouros have more freedom between the torso and arms.

Then within the Archaic period a change occurs that leads it to the classical period. From the Standing Youth of 600 BC, to the Kroisos from 525 BC, the shape of the body becomes more natural and flowing. The cubic shape has disappeared with a more proportioned body, and the edge at the femur bone is smoothened. Also in women statuettes alterations are shown. Kore in Dorian Peplos figures carries a lightweight simple dress as the Kore in Chios has elaborate jewelry placed on her. These two kore figures display the geometric shaped hair as the earlier kore statue, but the later ones have longer hair.

The evolution of the Archaic kore figure is slightly different: Early sculptors concentrated on the kore?s clothing, showing folds in the cloth at first as regularly incised lines and later as more varied and deeply cut. By the close of the Archaic period, artists had begun to pay more attention to the shape of the body beneath the folds and to render figures with greater individuality.

The first large-scale stone pediment in Greek sculpture decorated the Doric Temple of Artemis on the island of Corfu. As in that of the Lioness Gate at Mycenae the carvings are in high relief and hold decorative symbols to ward of evil. The Athenian Treasury at Delphi, Battle of the Gods and the Giants, places layer upon layer, using undercutting as the main skill. This can be recalled later in the Hellenic period in which the Great Frieze of the Great Pergamum contains a scene named, Athena and Alcyoneus. The panoramic sculptures are so definably cut that they seem unbound from the pediment.

Early Classical sculptors, unlike their Archaic predecessors, began to explore the inner character and the emotions of their subjects. At the same time they began to create statues that broke from the rigidity of the Archaic kouros by simulating a contrapposto. The pose first appears in a marble figure known as the Kritios Boy (480 BC). In contrast to a stiff and ?archaic smile? figure, the Kritios Boy seems to make a facial and bodily reaction to what he is contemplating. In contrast, the Kroisos from 525 BC is a more self-prominent character rather than that who is in deep thought.

The bronze Charioteer of Delphi (470 BC), as well appears to be pondering his victory in the chariot race just ended. His clothing entails fine detail as shown before in the Archaic ornate kore. The folds of the dress fall with the movement of the body. So from that the action of the being is accentuated and explored as it was developed from the earlier time on.

Bronze became the favorite medium of Early Classical sculptors, partly because it was better suited to action poses. In works such as the Discobolus (450 BC), the sculptor Myron depicted an athlete at the moment of greatest potential energy.

The Parthenon sculptures and other works from the Acropolis also illustrate changing attitudes toward the display of the female body. Figures such as the goddesses from the Parthenon’s east pediment are covered with drapery that reveals each curve of breast, stomach, and thigh. The Female Figure (650 BC) has more restraint and reserved clothing. Kore in Dorian Peplos which was also from the Archaic period, though showed the form of the female body.

Until the 4th century BC no goddess or heroic female figure was depicted completely naked in Greek art. The first great female nude was a statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, by Praxiteles. The Cnidian Aphrodite (340-330 BC), it was the most famous Greek statue of its time. The sculptures became more sincere and gentle. Even his male figures, such as Hermes (320-310 BC), seem soft and less manly than the hard-bodied athletes of before.

After the conquests of Alexander the Great from 334 to 323 BC, the Greek world comprised vast lands and peoples that were mostly non-Greek. Because Hellenistic sculpture had to speak to a far more diverse audience, artists tended to choose subjects that all people could readily understand, figures that depicted old age, anxiety, sleep, fatigue, drunkenness, or even deformity.

At the same time, Hellenistic sculptors developed further some of the trends established in the Late Classical period. Hellenistic figures such as the powerfully projecting Nike of Samothrace (200-190 BC) show a unique deepness.

Melodramatic, exaggerated effects are especially associated with the Great Pergamum Alter, built atop the city?s acropolis sometime from about 190 to 156 BC. Some figures seem ready to leap off the wall and even crawl up the sides of a staircase. The muscles of the figures are, the drapery sweeping, the poses striking, and the faces expressive. In one scene, the goddess Athena has caught a giant as he gazes helplessly toward the sky as he tries to free himself. His expression resembles that of Laoco?n, a later statue, shown as he struggles to free himself from giant snakes.

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