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Art In Ancient Greeks Society And Culture

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Greece has a long history of a flourishing empire and developments in their art and culture. They are known for being the pioneers of new developments of technology, art, philosophy and literature. In their prime Greece was at the center of it all, having the most important trading center in the Mediterranean. Their importance and impact did not stop there, Greek art is one of the most influential and important art developments in human history. Their art is said to have began in the Cycladic and Minoan civilization, thus giving birth to Western classical art with are developments in Geometric, Archaic and Classical periods.

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Art is reflected by the society that creates them, and in terms of Ancient Greeks society and culture, this serves and no exception to that fact. Greek art is mainly put into 5 forms: architecture, sculpting, painting, pottery and jewelry making. The fundamental nature and principle of their culture is representing through their art, which is called “arete”. “Arete”, in its basic sense which means “excellence of any kind” or “moral virtue”. As its physical meaning is: “a sharp mountain ridge”, which characterizes Greek geography well by its mountainous terrain and their worship towards the gods of Mount Olympus, also reflecting their Polytheism.

Ancient Greece was a Polytheist culture believing in multiple deities such as Zeus the god of Thunder, or Poseidon the god of Sea, horses, and earthquakes. Much of their art much like other religious societies reflects their worship for the 12 gods of Olympus. This art all take the form of all 5 types of their art. Architecture in the form of their sanctuaries and temples where they held ceremonies. Including jewelry, pottery and paintings in the form of decoration to worship their gods, sculptures depicting these gods, and not only gods but important figures in Greek culture such as philosophers or political figures.

Greek’s art and culture appeal to me because they are pioneers in adding expression, and different art techniques in their art to add some personality. While those methods were not perfect, they still brung something refreshing, visually pleasing and influential to the art world. From this culture my favorite art pieces comes in the form of a sculpture of the God: Poseidon, and the pottery design of Achilles slaying Penthesilea. Both of these of examples Greek Art showcase different new characteristics the Greeks pioneered in introducing into their works of art.

The pottery design of Achilles slaying Penthesilea really caught my eye in terms of the intensity of the colors and the drama presented in the illustration it self. Penthesilea and Achilles are two well known figures in Greek Mythology. Achilles, the greek hero of the Trojan War and the greatest warrior of his time. Penthesilea, an Amazonian queen who is the daughter if Ares and Otrera and sister of Hippolyta, Antiope and Melanippe. Amazonians are members of a race of women warriors, who are said to be taller than the average men of that time. To continue, this work of art immediately caught my eye as it is an early example of Greek art displaying drama and emotion into their works of art.

I love the idea of adding drama and emotion into a work of art, as it creates more of an impact on the spectator. With this one in particular there is a story behind it that is quite interesting. It is said that as Achilles stabs Penthesilea, their eyes meet and he begins to fall in love with her. Something that is out of the ordinary for a killing machine like Achilles. It gives me a sense of wonder to why this fight is occurring and why did he begin to feel that emotion towards her after what already happened.

The overall elements and design of this piece is very nice and intricate. The pottery it self is called an Amphora for its vase like shape with its round mid section, and concave curved top and bottom with the two handle, where the pot it self is made from clay with some iron contents. The iron contents in the clay is what gives it such an intense and rich red color. I especially appreciate the contrast of the two black figures being and black designs over the red almost copper color, as it only complements the intensity portrayed in the art even more. Indulging more into this, you may notice Achilles is a fully dark figure representing him being killing machine or warrior and Penthesilea having her skin colored a fair skin tone to represent her queen status and femininity. One thing you notice in Greek pottery art is how the figures on the pottery are usually abstract characterized with exaggerated body parts and swirl designs that complement the patterns and swirls decorated around the pottery.

The statue of Poseidon (or a young Zeus) is another amazing work of art from Greek culture, this work of art was created towards the beginning of the classical age. The Greeks were known for admiring the human body, and this is represented in forms of the creation of the Olympics, sports, and in their works of art. They pioneered the use of the classical style and expressed naturalistic forms of art, thus introducing new ideas and forms into the art world. The classical style refers to Greek accomplishments in art from the 2nd half of the 5th century BC with its emphasis on proportion and harmony. The original statue of Poseidon was carved from bronze, a material much heavier than marble, as it still had a lot of detail and naturalism yet it still had stylized hair including the beard. With the use of carved lines and textures to replicate true forms of the body of a god.

This work of art stands out to me for the posture of Poseidon here. He stands in a contrapposto position, meaning to put most of their weight on to one foot so that the shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs, and looks as if he is ready to through a spear or his trident. I also appreciate how the statue itself is balanced enough to stand on its own despite the contrapposto position due to the weight of the material. It is still a wonder till this day if this figure is intact Poseidon or if it is Zeus, as I do also wonder what is the conflict of the story here for Poseidon/Zeus to be throwing their mighty weapon.

Throughout Greece’s early empire many new forms of art were discovered, and have become major influences for other works of art around the world as time progressed. Greek art has influenced new ideas of architecture that we still see today, the idea of adding drama in our art, and depicting realistic forms of the human body in their art. Art will continue to be influenced by future artists as art is something that is timeless and able to be influential and appreciated forever.

15 April 2020

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