AWHOA Chapter 4 – The Greeks and their Neighbours
Political, economic or social factors
Greece was not a unified state it was made up of many city states which were often warring (e.g. Athens, Carthage, Sparta). But one thing they did have in common was a shared culture and artistic tradition. Greek states developed a sense of superiority over other countries that their culture was better. Arts started in about 800BC. The most celebrated period was from the end of the Persian War (490BC) to the unification in 338BC. This was the ‘classic period’ where art really flourished. After this was the decline.
Changes to status or training of artists
Politically the city states were run by the aristocracy not religious bodies. In this atmosphere artists were encouraged to be experimental and to outdo the artists from the past. You start to see the beginning of patronage and artists would travel around the different city states in search of commissions.
Development of materials and processes
Development of the architecture being based on the human body to create spatial harmony. ‘Man the measure of all things’ Protagoras (philosopher). The Parthenon is a good example of this.
Development of the Doric style of architecture, they took the Egyptian temple and turned it inside out so columns no appear on outside of the building. Doric seems to have been based on skills transferred from wooden structure building.
Use of marble?
Learning from Egypt, early Greek sculpture were often quite stiff and usually only a had couple of viewpoints. Greek sculpture gradually developed its own style of more natural posing, more anatomically correct and figures that can be viewed from multiple angles.
Styles and movements
Development of a very Greek style. A simplicity and clarity in sculpture where there was a real focus on the pubescent male nude. No real development of female sculpture in the same way. Women tended to be depicted at least semi clothed with accentuating modesty, and concealing her appeal sexually. First female nude not until 4th century BC.
Sculpture and art developed the dual ideas being both natural and the ideal. So for example in sculpture the natural would be how the figure was posed and the ideal would be the figure itself a unrealistic depiction of the human body often made up of the ‘best bits’ of several models.
Inside and outside influences
Greeks were influenced by many of their neighbouring countries that they traded with. In particular Egypt (large statues and temples) but also other states like Syria and Asian countries.
Critics, thinkers and historians
Romans thought that Greek art was the pinnacle and to be aspired to, it was ‘canonical’ art.
The idea of canonical art carried on until the 19th Century. More modern critics focus on the peculiar nature of the Greek obsessions (e.g. nude adolescent male, idealism).