Greek Sculpture

K. Hall
Ancient History

Greek artists remain, to this day, to be some of the most skilled craftspeople in the history of the world. The culture especially excelled in its sculptures. Although few artifacts have survived intact, these items are enough to provide us with significant knowledge of the materials, styles, and techniques and were used thousands of years ago.
The sculpture of the ancient Greeks was harmonious, orderly and unified. Artists focused on the idealized human form. The figures were heroic, athletic and well-proportioned, in accordance with the culture\'s belief that perfection of the mind and character must occur in a perfect body (Scholastic Art 4).
Approximately 3500 years ago, Greek sculpture entered its "Archaic" period, which officially lasted until about 480 B.C. Works produced early in this period were generally small, plain figures carved from stone. They resembled modern abstract art in their shapes and forms, which were usually of animals, like horses, deer or birds, and seldom of humans. These figures were simplified and highly stylized, using geometric shapes; for example, cylinders for legs, etc (Moulton 31).
At around 675 B.C., sculptors experimented with techniques borrowed from Near East artisans. The method, which only lasted for a short time, is now known as the Daedalic Style. The human figures face forward, with their arms and hands at their sides. The heads of these people had flat tops, triangular faces, large eyes and noses, and neat curly hair. However, they were all emotionless. Circa 600 B.C., Greek sculptors were influenced by the Egyptians. Sculptures in this period were usually of the kouros, the nude male youth, or the kore, the female in form-fitting robes. Later in the Archaic period, until about 480 B.C., sculptors made their creations symmetrical; to be seen from the single best side. They were then painted with brightly colored wax. Almost all of the human sculptures from this period are characterized by the "Archaic Smile," which was a large, brightly painted grin on the faces, designed to make the sculpture look alive (Scholastic Art 4).
The next great period in Greek art was the Classical Period, or the Classical Revolution. This took place in the 5th century B.C., during the Golden Age of Athens and the rule of Pericles. The sculptors of this time were regarded as craftspeople who had to work on commission for their wages, and they subsequently moved from city to city. They had discovered that, instead of carving an original, they could model in clay and cast the work in bronze. Even though the sculptures were cast in separate pieces and bolted together, this allowed for freer, more lifelike figures that did not need the "Archaic Smile."(Scholastic Art 4).
During the Classical Revolution, there were many different well-known sculptors, who each had their own separate style that influenced all of Greek art. Although generally the period was expressive of emotions, like fear, defeat, troubledness, and brooding, the artists each adopted their own method of creating figures. Phidias, perhaps one of the most talented Greek sculptors, constructed Athena in the Parthenon, commissioned by Pericles. Polykleitos developed a new, well-balanced human figure that eventually became the standard. Skopas created ordinary individuals who were usually serious and or tragic, while Praxitelus focused on humor in work. Lysippos was Alexander the Great\'s personal sculptor, and he created a new body that replaced Polykleitos\'s as the standard (Moulton 33).
Also made in this period was pottery. It had been made in the Archaic period as well, decorated with geometric shapes, but during the Classical Revolution the designs became much more intricate and beautiful. The earlier "red figure" pottery was created by painting a pot black and etching designs in the paint. The more difficult and time-consuming "black figure" pottery was done by etching away the black paint from around the design, leaving only it black (Levi 62-64).
The final period of Greek art was the Hellenistic Period, which lasted from about 330-100 B.C. Although fundamentally like the Classical Revolution, the Hellenistic Period was more dramatic. It focused on details, like the complex and striking folds of drapery on the subjects, which was designed to lead the eyes to the subject\'s face, which was highly realistic and personal. However, it was still idealized, and was intended to make the people look beautiful. Towards the end of