The Greeks and their Neighbours – summary of reading

Tutor notes regarding feedback with suggestions/corrections at the end of this blog.

POLITICAL, ECONOMIC OR SOCIAL FACTORS

  • During Archaic period monarchy gave way to aristocracy and also to polis (self-governing state)
  • Expansion of Greek civilisation
  • Persian wars
  • Reforms in Athens by Solon creating basis for democratic state
  • Market for art in Hellenic world and Athens was artistic centre
  • Late Classical period – artistic decline but ruling classes developed taste for luxury and art became status symbol
  • Hallstatt and La Tene – change in social structure as change in burials to cremation
  • Etruscans monarchical rule similar to Greek poleis but without the wars

CHANGES TO STATUS OR TRAINING OF ARTISTS

  • Wealthy patronage meant artistic development encouraged but few opportunities on large scale
  • Athens greatest city in history of art – encouraged artistic developments that spread through Hellenic world
  • Premium on artistry and artists competed to improve on predecessors
  • Artists had freedom of movement – travelled throughout Hellenic world – tyrants great patrons
  • Painters held in as high regard as sculptors by wealthy patrons
  • Mosaics and coins appeared so new artists and sets of skills developed
  • Hallstatt and La Tene change in burial practices meant change in status of artists as art required by chieftains to decorate tombs
  • Etruscan artists highly valued due to time and skill spent on the works which showed wealth of patrons and when combined with materials art was considered a status symbol.

DEVELOPMENT OF MATERIALS AND PROCESSES

  • Development of Egyptian block carving by drawing outlines on block.
  • Optical refinements in architecture
  • Modelling lines – sculptors developed to give emphasis to statues
  • Lost wax technique of bronze work
  • Black figure work, red figure work, white ground work
  • Development of working in marble
  • Foreshortening in painting and sculpture appears in 5th Century and developed
  • Architectural developments – use of geometric forms

STYLES AND MOVEMENTS

  • Orientalizing style
  • Daedalic style of sculpture, naturalistic style and idealistic style of carving
  • Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders of temples and columns
  • Scythians – animalistic style and tattoos were an art form in their own right
  • Etruscan style very simplified form of Greek idealistic style – architectural style was of symmetrical planning and rich development. Naturalism also was apparent but more restrained than Greek style. Archaic style of Greece introduced through imports and became defining style.

CRITICS, THINKERS AND HISTORIANS

  • Plato – philosopher and mathematician of Classical Greece and teacher of Aristotle, author of poetry and constitution of Athens. Protagorus – Stoic philosopher.
  • Homer – author and writer of first known literature. Sappho – poet.
  • Herodotus – Greek Historian of 5th Century BC.
  • Pliny the Elder – naturalist and historian.

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE INFLUENCES

  • Assyrian, West Asian, Eastern, Syrian, Phoenician, Egyptian influenced the arts
  • Religious festivals and athletic games also influenced the artists and dictated many of the statues of the Gods or athletes.
  • Scythian art shows influences of Chinese rituals and West Asia
  • Hallstatt and La Tene influenced by Scythian gold workers
  • Iberians and Sardinians show influence of Greeks in 3 dimensional sculptures and also architectural skills learnt either in Minoan Crete or Halladic Greece for their nuraghi buildings
  • Etruscans great purchasers of Greek artefacts and many Greek artists worked in their cities so influence of Greek art. Archaic style introduced to Etruria through imports which became defining style.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Fleming, J and Honour, H. 1984.  A World History of Art. Seventh Edition.  London. Laurence King Publishing

TUTOR NOTES:

  • “Think a bit more about the importance in Greek culture of representing mythological figures and deities in idealized form, or the development of the notion of humanism (an ideological approach centre on the immense potential of the human being to achieve greatness, particularly in the arts and sciences).  You could also relate the Greek study of the human form to the idealized proportions of Greek architecture (Phidias, for example, and his efforts at the Parthenon).
  • Try to expand on the emergence of the named artist i.e. it is through Greek art that we witness for the first time in the Western art historical canon a sudden profusion of artists signing their works, suggesting a new found pride-of-place in being a respected artist.”

As I think now about the points raised by my tutor I now have a fuller understanding of their meaning and importance and the developments and ideas of the Hellenic culture that was to have such a huge influence on Western art throughout the subsequent centuries.

In ancient Greek culture the mythological figures and deities were not just idealized by given mortal form and by doing so it gives the impression that the people can strive to achieve the status of these figures.  Idealizing the figures humanizes them and shows the potential of the human being.

Although I have not expanded on the emergence of the named artist I fully understand the importance in art historical terms in being able to trace specific artists which in turn pinpoints their era but more vitally in terms of the artist this enables the artist to be commissioned individually and by reputation if you signed your name and this in turn increased your status.

 

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