Quick History of Art

Before the portrayal of the human body can be critiqued,
you must understand the artist\'s culture. As man evolved
over centuries, his views of the body also transformed. Our
tour definitely showed the drastic changes in different
cultures\' art. Each culture and era presents very distinct
characteristics. Through time and experimentation, we have
expressed our views of the human body clearly with our
art. Egyptians were the first people to make a large impact
on the world of art. Egyptians needed art for their religious
beliefs more than decoration or self- gratification. The most
important aspect of Egyptian life is the ka, the part of the
human spirit that lives on after death. The ka needed a
physical place to occupy or it would disappear. Most of
the important men of Egypt paid to have their body carved
out of stone. That was were the spirit would live after the
man dies. They used stone because it was the strongest
material they could find. Longevity was very important. The
bodies are always idealized and clothed. Figures are very
rigid, close-fisted, and are built on a vertical axis to show
that the person is grand or intimidating. Most of the figures
were seen in the same: profile of the legs, frontal view of
the torso, and profile of the head. Like most civilizations,
Egyptians put a lot of faith in gods. The sky god Horus, a
bird, is found in a great amount ! of Egyptian art. Little
recognition was ever given to the artists. The emphasis was
on the patron. Early Greek art was greatly influenced by
the Egyptians. Geography permitted both cultures to
exchange their talents. The beginning of Greek art is
marked by the Geometric phase. The most common art
during the Geometric phase was vase painting. After the
vase was formed but before it was painted, the artist
applied a slip (dark pigment) to outside. Then the vase was
fired and the artist would incise his decorations into the
hard shell. It was important to incise humans into the fired
slip and not paint with slip. The people in the pictures
needed light colored skin, which was the color beneath the
slip, because Greeks wanted to make their art as realistic
as possible. Much like Egyptian art, the Greeks idealized
the bodies of the people in their works. As the Archaic
Period evolved, Greek sculptures were almost identical to
the Egyptians\'. Unlike Egyptians, the Greeks refined their
techniques. Greeks used marble to construct their
sculptures. It was considered more valuable and beautiful
than any material available. They softened the lines of the
body. Greek sculptors slowly perfected every contour in
the human figure. Greek people viewed the human body as
something beautiful and so they depicted nude men.
Women were eventually nude but only when there was a
reason, they needed to be bathing or something where they
would be naked. They people that are sculpted are always
young and their bodies are still idealized. The Greeks
invented contrapposto, the relaxed natural stance of a
sculpture. A figure that is standing in contrapposto
becomes a sculpture in the round, meaning that the
emphasis is not only on a frontal view but also from all
angles. The Hellenistic Period emerged as the Romans
began to produce some of the finest art in history. This new
revolutionary style was incredible. Figures weren\'t confined
to the unnatural or boring positions they had for centuries.
All body parts were in perfect proportion. These statues
came alive as their limbs reached out into space. Vacant
stares evolved into human emotions, which were easily
recognized on their faces. I think this renaissance portrayed
the way people were thinking. They were exploring
philosophy, religion, and politics. This was a time for
rebirth. Christian art was introduced during the middle of
the second century. In many cases the only difference
between Christian art and Hellenistic art is the religious
subject matter. After a slow start the Christians introduced
something new, the mosaic. Mosaics became a favorite
medium for decorating churches. Man was viewed in
religious scenes due to the spread of Christianity. Byzantine
and medieval art was very representative. The artists\' ability
to produce lifelike figures had regressed. The emphasis was
not on man anymore. Their art was made to glorify God.
The fifteenth century marked the arrival of the Renaissance.
Artists have finally recaptured the amazing detail and
realism that the Greeks and Romans perfected. Artists
pushed the limits with new exciting mediums and bright
colors. Filippo Brunelleschi, allowed artists to determine
the relative size of each figure by inventing the vanishing
point perspective. With that tool it was possible to put
everything in perfect proportion. Humans were not always
idealized as they were in earlier centuries.