While Greek sculptures are undoubtedly the most renowned, they were greatly influenced by Egyptian forms of art. Notably, the earliest forms of Greek statues did resemble those of Egyptian statues as they served the same purposes. Greek artists believed that man was the measure of all things; and so they planned on creating or coming up with forms of sculptures that were different from the Egyptians'. As an example, the Greek statue known as the Kouros (650-600B.C.) showed to have gained a lot of influence from the Egyptians. The body was plain and motionless, as the hair resembled Egyptians' pieces of art. In most of Greek's art and sculptures, they displayed nudity in male because it was seen as a heroic act.
Throughout the ages, Greek art and sculpture has had a huge impact worldwide. Many styles from the ancient Greeks have been copied and reproduced nowadays by some finest artists like Michelangelo. While the West derived their art from Romans, most of the East derived theirs from the Greeks, courtesy of great men like Alexander. Some of the materials used by Greeks in making their sculptures include limestone, stone, bronze and marble. These ancient Greek forms sculptures tell stories touching on gods, events, heroes, mythical creatures and their culture as well. It is evident that most of the Roman sculptures copied a lot from the Greeks.
Despite their nudity, Greek sculpture display great intelligence of creativity that man can attain. It is marvelous to understand how ancient Greek sculptors could come up with such magnificent structures by using simple tools. The first traces of sculptures are thought to have originated from the wooden cult statues. However, they did not survive as their descriptions are vague.
The first major period to witness numerous outstanding sculptures is known as the Classical Period. During this era, sculptures produced were among the most beautiful in the world. It is also during this period that artists began to express the human figure in a more naturalistic way; they expanded the existing formal boundaries (John, 1978). Strict asymmetry of the human figure was replaced by a free flowing form that seemed more true to life. However, they approached this style through bronze and stone.
Classical sculpture undertook a form that was fluid and natural. Moreover, their style was applied to come out with realistic figures that originated from the illusion of travelling through space. This was the first time that human anatomy appeared to be worthy of immortalization in bronze and stone. The poses struck by the sculptures commanded space with effortless movement. Notably, Greek artists began to replace stiff vertical figures with three-dimensional figures in action (John, 1978). These classical sculptures held poses that burst out with energy. Immobile muscles, as witnessed during the archaic period, were replaced with a unique universe of tension and relaxation.
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During classical period, the human body began to be studied for its beauty, and treated as an autonomous universe. Art focused on the human body as artist began to focus on ordinary subject concerning on how to achieve balance through the human body. Some scholars would say that the classical Greek sculptor had become more of a magician than an ordinary artist. They turned their attention from the supernatural to earthly matters. It is important to note that, during the classical period, the gods were only used as a mere excuse in the study of human beings.
It can be said that, it was during the classical period that human beings gained the importance they deserved while gods took the human form through marble and bronze. During this era, the universe became explainable by logic thus becoming a subject of study. The idea of intense study can be proved with the writings of numerous Greek Philosophers, and the works produced by sculptors during the classical era (John, 1978). It is also important to note that, this is the time that the Greeks began organizing their societies around democracy. Officials were elected by the community who had the rights to challenge their authority when they became dictators or misused their powers.
Another important point to note is that, the smile characterized in archaic sculptures was replaced by solemn facial expressions. When classical sculptures are looked at, their faces betray no expression despite the fact that the sculptures themselves depicted passionate, as well as violent scenery. The Greeks employed this idea into their art because they believed that reason or logic was supposed to dominate the human expression at all times. In ancient Greek sculpture, the human body began to be understood as having opposing forces that created a perfect beauty if they achieved balance. As an example, if the weight of the upper part of the body happened to shift to one side, the corresponding muscles of the leg had to stiffen and the bones straightened so as to support it, while another set of bones and muscles on the opposite site relaxed and moved with the aim of retaining physical balance.
One thing became clear to the classical period artist, that beauty of the whole body or structure depended heavily on the harmony of the parts comprising it (John, 1978). Moreover, each of the parts depended on the rest so as create a harmonious group by themselves. It is also evident that proportion became the major preoccupation of artists and sculptors in ancient Greece. They moved away from focusing on metaphysical subjects to formal issues as they represented harmonious balance through opposite ends. The Greeks searched for it in a number of other disciplines including Politics, Astronomy, Philosophy, Science, Architecture, and Art. Moreover, they also expressed it in mathematics that could be then applied to nature.
Notably, the ancient Greek artist created his own self, and then created god and man in a universe full of idealized aesthetic values, perfect formal proportions, and the new sense of freedom. The artists were free from barbarism and tyranny as they transited towards gaining self determination. The Greek sculptures represented a pure expression of self-determination, self-consciousness and freedom. The same values were used by the Greeks in defeating the Persians as they led them to coming up with a society that ensured equality and dignity within every man. In this context, the sculptor became the creator of human values. He only used the gods as an excuse to create the human form in bronze and stone. It is evident that the same sculptor became the universal record of man as he progressed toward self-determination.
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A good example of a classical sculpture is the Discus Thrower (450 B.C.), which shows a great emphasis on balance, symmetry, and proportion. The facial expressions are calm in nature while the actions look realistic. However, the sculpture represents an idealized athlete. Secondly, the Spear Bearer (450-440) is another magnificent classical sculpture that is well defined, more muscular, very symmetrical, and balances precisely. It represents an ideal proportion with a dreamy look on the face.
Another stage to witness a number of great Greek sculptures is referred to as the Hellenistic period (Andrew, 1990). During the beginnings of this period, late classical trends continued to be seen. Hellenistic Kings had become the patrons of sculpture. They were greatly involved in collecting old works as they commissioned artists to make new ones. This is evident in most of works like monuments, which were usually named after them.
During this period, subjects were also diverse as the styles. However, figures of gods and athletes continued to exist. Moreover, portraiture seemed to flourish more freely during this period. It is speculated that, enlargement of ideas reflected the spiritual changes that came into effect after Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire. The Hellenistic kings and rulers were all determined to ensure that the Greek culture spread through an entire region for political reasons. The Hellenistic styles employed in sculpture did proceed from the classical tradition by evolution. A number of leading Hellenistic sculptors improved on the matter of beauty. They were more accomplished than their classical counterparts. They did a great work by investing and improving on the knowledge they had inherited from classical artists. They improved on their understanding of the term anatomy; however, their understanding was used distinctively depending on the subject and character of the piece of work. They achieved softer modeling of the flesh as it became a favorite technique to achieve sentimental effects.
There were other artists from this period that concentrated on the athlete male. However, they kept the leathery and lean appearance of the skin. This style became useful for application in heroic notables and princes, victors in games, and private individuals. To add on this, another type of trend cropped up. It relied on linear design more than modeling. However this did not suit nude bodies but drapery and portrait heads. There were also other ambitious artists who tried to use old classical forms in applying violent dramatic forms.
In their quest to render anatomy, most Hellenistic sculptors did not do away with classical formulas. They saw no need in making a new start hence they did not in tamper with the systems of proportions of the male figure. Later on, an alternative female canon came to be acknowledged; it had narrow shoulders, broader hips and higher waist. However, there were more radical changes when it came to drapery. It is important to note that Classical sculptors had come up with a system of devices that elucidated the action and form of the body that did not conform closely to nature. While these tendencies were taken further with some of the early Hellenistic sculptors, there seemed to be a wide rejection of the classical standards. It was common to note in this period a female figure dressed in chiton, the feet hidden, and a stretched cloak running diagonally from one knee to the other. The cloak was usually patterned with thin ridges that were sharp. It is also important to note that there was still a persistence of the classical tradition in statues depicting gods. This was continuously used by sculptors using the Pergamene style.
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During the classical period, classical masters suggested emotion by the use of simple gestures. However, Hellenistic sculptors had other new ideas in mind. They came up with their own standards. They maintained the old impassivity in the works of traditional character. However, they got to enjoy their virtuosity where they had a natural and dramatic aim. Portraiture became more and more vivid while some regard for dignity was left upon the customer.
There was a wide range of poses associated with sculptures from this period. There were those that were crouched while others sprawled, lay down, and stood upright. One thing to note in this Pergamene style is that, violent contortions were always welcomed. Most of these poses had been used by artists in earlier period, but not in free standing. In free standing, the standard involve in the decorum were very strict. In addition to this, groups became common phenomena as they became more and more systematically designed. One of the most radical innovations during this period came about in composition. Over time, statues from the classical period presented four distinct and different principal views as they were constructed from a front and side view. On their part also, Hellenistic sculptors went more into deep thought. Firstly, they resolved to give a spiral twist to the sculpture to ensure that some of the important features appeared in either frontal or profile elevation. With the arrival of the second century, Hellenistic sculptors came up with another solution, they made sure that the spiral twist ended or reversed at the waist. However, most of the Hellenistic statues were still being designed in the old fashion; emphasis was placed at the frontal view.
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Later on, there was a revival of the classical art that ended up producing new adaptations and interpretations of the classical forms of sculptures. This led to a brand new industry of copying, which lasted throughout the Roman art. Hellenistic sculptors made sure that they did not change the technique they used in the carving of marble. The finished piece of work would still be equal to the likes of those found in the classical period.
Notably, the practice of sculpturing was not uniform; there were sculptures that were fully colored, while others were done discreetly (Smith, 1991). The two systems happened to be running concurrently. In addition to this, more gilding of marble was employed in making hair. On the bronze side, portrait heads showed more distinct features than carving. With this in mind, the sculptors resorted to using a softer medium for preliminary work.
The transition from the Classical period to Hellenistic period came during the 4th century B.C. This ushered in a period that saw the quick spread of Greek culture into far parts like India. Greek sculptures and other forms of art got more influence from outside than before (Andrew, 1990). Some historians have suggested that it is the time that it also declined in originality and quality. Some of the outstanding Hellenistic sculptors created magnificent such as the Pergamon Altar and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. As sculpture became more diverse, women, common people, children and animals became subjects of sculpture. Some wealthy families commissioned their own project of sculpture to put in gardens and their homes. Sculptors no longer felt the urge to bring out people as ideals of physical perfection or beauty. One important factor to note is that, Hellenistic sculpture increased in scale.
It is important to note that, when Alexander died, the Greeks were left in a civilized world but without a centralized power to maintain such wide kingdom acquired by Alexander. This meant that separate kingdoms would come out of it as the art will also be split. In the Hellenistic Period, Greek art became modified in different small empires by resembling the previous civilizations (Smith, 1991). The main monuments of this period were then classified into three; the Graeco-Egyptian, Graeco-Asiatic, and Graeco-Persian. In the Graeco-Egyptian forms of art, there is a characteristic intermingling of Greek and Egyptian motives. Picturesque details like landscape backgrounds were used to male statues, a method that had not existed before. The Greco-Asiatic art depicted a change in spirit more than form. There was presence of new vigor, as well as preference for showy and striking themes. Sculptures from this period are acknowledged as having retained the highest possible technical excellence. The Greco-Persian sculpture in its part had Persian influences. Sculptures in this category have Persian motives, for example, the horned lion and the Lion attacking the Bull.
In conclusion, Egyptian forms of art can be said to be the major influences of Greek sculpture. Notably, the earliest forms of Greek statues did resemble those of Egyptian statues as they served the same purposes. Greek artist usually believed that man was the measure of all things; hence they planned on creating or coming up with different forms of sculptures than the Egyptians. As an example, the Greek statue known as the Kouros (650-600B.C.) showed to have gained a lot of influence from the Egyptians. The body was plain and motionless, showed adolescence as the body and hair resembled the Egyptians' pieces of art. In most of Greek's art and sculptures, they display nudity in a more apparent manner in male because it was seen as a heroic act.
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Other sculpture like the Kritios Boy was an excellent piece of art from Greek artists. It showed how they began to concentrate into various nature of the body, for example, balance, proportion, and symmetry. This was the beginning of classical period. A good example is the Discuss Thrower (450 B.C.), which shows a great emphasis on balance, symmetry, and proportion. The facial expressions are calm in nature while the actions look realistic. However, the sculpture represents an idealized athlete. The Spear Bearer (450-440) is another classical magnificent classical sculpture that is well defined, more muscular, very symmetrical, and balances precisely. It represents an ideal proportion with a dreamy look on the face. On the other hand, the Hellenistic period comes out as the most outrageous when compared to the archaic (Smith, 1991).
It is important to note that dictators used to rule most of the powerful Greek cities during the archaic period. However, despite the iron fist rule and tyranny, arts continued to flourish as new ideas came into existence. It is thought that Greek arts flourished as a result of the fall of the Persian Empire; brought down by Alexander the Great. Art seemed to symbolize the triumph and victory of civilized people over barbarians who were not yet civilized.
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The end of Persian wars marked the beginning of the Classical period, which also brought a number of changes in Greek sculpting. The wars fought during this period seem to have greatly impacted Greek sculpting. Statues that had slender and athletic torsos were usually replaced with those that took on war-like stances. The revolution in Greek statutory during the classical period is usually associated with the introduction of democracy. There were numerous changes in style and function employed in making sculptures. Moreover, poses became more naturalistic as the technical skill used by sculptors in depicting the human form increased tremendously. This is the time that statues began to depict real human beings. On the other hand, statues and sculptures were put into a variety of other uses. Sculptural innovation employed the use of difficult and technical challenges. It is in the classical period that historians can actually get to know the names of individual sculptors.
The transition from the Classical period to Hellenistic period came during the 4th century B.C. This ushered in a period that saw the quick spread of Greek culture into far parts like India (Andrew, 1990). Greek sculptures and other forms of art got more influence from outside than before. Some historians have suggested that it is the time that originality and quality declined. Some of the outstanding Hellenistic sculptors created magnificent such as the Pergamon Altar and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. As sculpture became more diverse, women, common people, children and animals became subjects of sculpture. Some wealthy families commissioned their own project of sculpture to put in gardens and their homes. Sculptors no longer felt the urge to bring out people as ideals of physical perfection or beauty. One important factor to note is that, Hellenistic sculpture increased in scale.