Art History Timeline / Art Movements Timeline

History of Art Timeline Introduction 

What is Art? The emergence of Art is unknown similar to how language came into being. If  Art encompasses activities that have taken place since forever such as Architecture, painting, and sculpture, then not a single civilization has been devoid of Art. On the contrary, if Art is considered to be a luxurious entity or a prized belonging that deserves a place in museums or galleries, then it’s pretty obvious that it is a recent development and that the greatest polymaths and producers of the past never fantasized about it.

This can be best perceived if seen from the architectural lens. Despite the fact that beautiful iconic buildings of the past are considered as Art, we very well know that all these renown masterpieces were constructed for particular reasons be it cultural, religious or any other. However, the people who make use of these buildings for any probable purpose, gauge them on the basis of their utility.

Art was also perceived as objects that fulfilled a particular function. Hence Art of the past can never be understood if we turn a blind eye to the objective it had to serve. Art cannot be understood unless we put ourselves in the shoes of people who lived thousands of years ago and what was it that instigated or directed them towards pictorial representation. We can to quite an extent recapture those feelings of ancient people if, without bias, we are able to identify whether we still retain something of the primitive within us.

Artist frog attempts to serve as a library of information about various art movements timeline, artists, philosophers, writers, art historians, art critics, etc. Its primary purpose is to educate students and Art enthusiasts about the changes Art underwent throughout History and its impact on the Art produced today. Artist frog will cover Art history periods in chronological order, from Stone Age to Art of the 21st century as a continuous weaving and changing of traditions in which works of Art refer to the past and point at the future, a chain that links today’s time with history.

 

PRIMITIVE ART

(Paleolithic Age)

Paleo implies “stone” and Lithic denotes “age” hence Paleolithic meaning Stone Age, i.e the period in ancient human history characterized by the development of stone tools. The oldest paintings to have existed are authentication of human skill that archaeologists failed to acknowledge when they first discovered lifelike representations of animals belonging to the Stone Age. An example is the Altamira cave paintings in Spain.  Upon further discovery of stone age tools list made out of stones and bones, it was reaffirmed that images of bison and other animals on the cave walls perhaps attacked by the creators themselves who believed that the act would bring them a good fortune to capture their prey eventually. This seems quite logical due to the fact that even today, there are tribes who have preserved their ancient customs such as festivals in which they dress up as animals and dance. Similarly, the Romans believed that Romulus and Remus had been brought up by a she-wolf, and till the present day, they have a bronze she-wolf on the sacred capital in Rome.

Venus of Willendorf, Art History

Paleolithic Art comprised of small sculptures, and monumental paintings engraved designs and reliefs on cave walls. Such works were produced throughout the Mediterranean region and other scattered parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa but survived in quantity only in eastern Europe and parts of Spain and France.

The Cave Lascaux In France, Paintings almost 15,000 years old

Small, portable clay figurines and bone and ivory carvings were typical of this period. The works include simple but realistic stone and clay animal figurines, as well as carved stone statuettes of women, the most iconic piece being the “Venus of Willendorf” that’s a raw portrait, an idealization of the female figure with exaggerated features such as her Vulva, breasts and the belly, all these depicting fertility.

Bison. Founded in Altamira Cave, Spain

Mesolithic Age

Mesolithic meaning “Middle Age” is the term used to define certain cultures that lie between the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. Mesolithic Age spanned a time period dating approximately from 12,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE.

In comparison to the Paleolithic age, that marked the start of hunting and gathering food for survival, the Mesolithic period represented a wide variety of hunting, fishing, and food gathering techniques. Agriculture and the beginning of permanent settlements started. Some people continued with intensive hunting, while others practised the initial stages of domestication.

The types of tools used is a distinguishing factor among Paleo and Mesolithic cultures. Mesolithic tools were advanced, made out of small chipped stone tools called microliths and retouched bladelets. The Paleolithic utilized more primitive stone treatments.

Cuevas de la Araña en, Mesolithic Art

Art from this period is distinctive of the shift to a warmer climate and acclimatization to a relatively sedentary lifestyle, population size, and consumption of plants. Numerous significant Mesolithic rock art sites exist on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. The works comprised of small painted figures of humans and animals, the most advanced and widespread ones surviving from this period in Europe and possibly worldwide. The human figure is a recurring theme in painted scenes. Hunting scenes are the most common, also scenes of battles and leisure such as dance activities and possibly agricultural chores. In some scenes gathering honey is shown, most famously at Cuevas de la Araña en Bicorp, an 8000-year-old cave painting near Valencia, Spain.

 

Neolithic Age

Neolithic age marks the climax of the stone age that commenced around 10,000 B.C. in the Fertile Crescent, a region of the Middle East where humans first took up farming. This period is frequently linked with agriculture and is familiar with the name Neolithic Revolution which is the time when food cultivation and animal domestication was introduced. It was characterized by stone tools shaped by polishing or grinding, thus the use of metal tools became widespread along with crafts such as Pottery and weaving that were emerging. Approaching the end of the Neolithic Era, people began to use tools made from metal. Copper was the first metal used for tools. Eventually copper replaced the stone, leading to the Copper Age. Innovations in stone tool fabrication became widespread and embraced by various groups in distant locations, which is evidence for the existence of vital networks of exchange and cultural interaction.

Instead of small family groups of the Old Stone Age, evidence substantiates that the people of the Neolithic period settled in large city complexes. Catal Hoyuk in the modern day Turkey is an ideal example of a Neolithic city. In Neolithic cities, people lived close together and extended cooperation with one another. This led to civilization, which actually means “to live in a city.”

Neolithic art was primarily created for some functional purpose ignoring exceptions. There were more images of humans than animals, and the humans looked more identifiably human. It began to be used for ornamentation.

The sculpture was no longer produced by carving. In the Near East, figurines were made of clay and baked. Evidence of it is the Archaeological digs at Jericho that turned up a marvellous human skull (c. 7,000 BC) overlaid with delicate, sculpted plaster features.

Neolithic Art

In the cases of architecture and megalithic constructions, art was now created in fixed locations. This was significant. Where temples, sanctuaries and stone rings were built, gods and goddesses were provided with known destinations. Additionally, the emergence of tombs provided unmoving resting places for the dearly departed that could be visited—another first.

Neolithic Art

When discussing the Neolithic era and the Art and Architecture associated with it, we’re often reminded of the Stonehenge, the iconic image of this early era. Dating to approximately 3000 B.C.E. in England, it is a massive structure, a gigantic monument and more complex than anything built before it in Europe.  Stonehenge is an example of the cultural diversity and progression brought about by the Neolithic revolution—the most important development in human history.

Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England

 

Primitive Art bases upon such preconceived notions and gives the artist ample space to bring out creativity. Also when discussing it, the word primitive does not imply to the knowledge the creator has of his craft. Tribes settled in far off areas even today have an astounding set of skills when it comes to what they produce be it carving, basketwork, weaving, etc. However despite the fact that what they produce requires competence and time, still we cannot call it Art as it’s devoid of critical thought and reasoning.

Without explanation, we could never read and understand the meanings and connotations attached to such intricate carvings and value the amount of effort put in. The mask below is a ritual mask from Alaska which on first sight appears to be humorous or comical but it actually depicts a cannibalistic mountain demon with a blood-stained face. It is worthy of appreciation of how natural/organic shapes take the form of a continuous pattern. There are numerous such marvellous works of this type that have probably lost their intended meaning forever but are still worthy of admiration.

Ritual Mask From Alaska

Also, such works shouldn’t be approached with preconceived notions that they were made for the sake of pleasure seeking or decoration but could also prompt us of the horrendous sacrifices made by the people of that time. An example is the horrid carving of a death head from an altar of the ruins of Copan in present-day Honduras, probably dating back to 504 AD.

Head of the Death God, From a Mayan altar, Copan, Honduras, 504 AD

 

MESOPOTAMIA HISTORY AND ART

Mesopotamian Culture sprouted from the valley between the two rivers, “Euphrates” and “Tigris”, modern day Iraq and dates roughly from to 3500 b.c.–539 b.c.Mesopotamian Art and Architecture are less familiar in comparison to Egyptian or Greek Art and Architecture due to the diminishing of baked brick buildings and structures over time.

The main reason for just a few early works to have been witnessed by us is probably because unlike Egyptians, the Mesopotamian religion discarded the notions of preservation of the soul. Early on, during the rule of Sumerians, kings were buried along with their slaves and household, to keep them intact in the life hereafter. Proof of this are the graves of that period, from where ancient household items have been discovered and now are part of the British Museum collection.

Back then Artistic skill and expertise went hand in hand with ancient beliefs in the supernatural and the barbaric. An example is one of the tombs that date back to 2800 BC, a harp embellished with an animal figure can be seen resembling heraldic breasts in appearance and arrangement. The intended meaning to use animals is still unknown but it can be ascertained that they were mythological characters from those early days. The scenes depicted that seem to be infantile actually had honest and serious meaning.

The artist’s thought wasn’t invited to decorate tomb walls but they had to make certain that the image they painted, kept the robust alive. Mesopotamian kings enjoyed appreciation and self-glorification so they used to commission monuments that portrayed their conquests and triumph. But it wasn’t just this, it was believed that such powerful images of victory ensured utter control upon their opponents that wouldn’t dare to rise up again.

Monument of King Naramsin found in Susa. About 2500 BC, Paris, Louvre

Later on, these monuments took the shape of records of events in the order of their occurrence. Quite a few of them are preserved in the British Museum, for instance, the chronicles of the ninth century BC Assyrian king Asurnasirpal II. These documentations depict scenes of the troops crossing rivers and launching attacks on the enemy, image representation resembling the Egyptian portrayal of such events but rugged in comparison.

CHARACTERISTICS OF EGYPTIAN ART

Ancient Egypt, known to the world as the “Land of the Pyramids” is considered to be one of the earliest civilizations of the world and proof of a profoundly organized land. The manner in which these megastructures such as the great pyramid of Giza that we witness today were built, manpower and other resources that were employed, speak volumes of the grandeur and proficiency of the Egyptians.

The pharaohs of Egypt were considered to be godly, possessing complete control over the land and its people. Thus it was believed that whenever a king departed, he ascended to where he came from, the sky, the realm of the divine. Hence pyramids had great empirical importance and their forms reaching up to the sky assisted the ascent of the ruler. They had a staunch belief in the hereafter and thus preserved the bodies of their kings, Egyptian mummies as we all are aware of. The body was placed in the centre of the pyramid in a stone coffin, surrounded by magical spells and verses on the walls to ease his journey to the other world. Also, a sculpted head of the departed ruler in imperishable granite was placed in the tomb, which no one could see but it resided to keep the soul alive. Initially, these monuments and rites of preservation were limited just to kings but later on also for the nobles of the royal family, in the form of smaller tombs surrounding the king’s pyramid.

Egyptian Art was characterized by perfect geometry and sharp observation, clearly evident in the relief works and paintings on the walls of the tombs. These works and imagery in the tombs were reflective of servants and helpers, depicting the idea of soul accompanied by his henchmen.

The painters portrayed actual life in a much different way than us and so looking at Egyptian paintings for the first time could be bewildering. This is because of the distinct purpose these paintings were made for. Beauty was not the driving force behind these works instead complete documentation was what mattered most. As a result, they did not draw from real life but a memory, they ensured they laid out all that expressed them and the life they lived.

The working methodology and the techniques Egyptian painters employed in painting resembled more of a mapmaker than that of a painter. All visual constituents and forms that they drew, were from peculiar angles.

PAINTING OF A POND (FROM A TOMB IN THEBES), 1400BC, London, British Museum

For instance, the image above of a pond painting discovered from a tomb in Thebes clarifies the artist’s way of visualizing his subject, which definitely wasn’t a personal choice of the artist but a set of rules to which all complied. The pond is drawn from an aerial perspective whereas the trees from a side view. The fish in the pond are drawn in profile to enhance their visibility or else if they were also drawn from a bird’s eye view, they would’ve hardly been visible.

PORTRAIT OF HESIRE from a wooden door in his tomb carved about 2700 BC, Cairo, Museum

 

Another example that substantiates this play of perspective as a visual tool by Egyptian artists, is a relief on a wooden door in a tomb that depicts a portrait of the king. A side view or the profile of a head has the eye of a frontal face incorporated. The top half of the body including the torso is drawn as seen from the front but the limbs or arms attached to the body in an uncomfortable pose.

All these seemingly errors were not mistakes but intentional in order to inculcate all parts of the body in the human form on the basis of a set of principles. Despite criticism of Egyptian paintings as being flat and contorted, we cannot label them as haphazard imagery because of the profound compositional sense they exude. The Egyptian artist proceeded with image making by drawing a mesh of lines to assist with composing characters in the image. It was not just knowledge that directed the artist but a sight for pattern too. However, incorporating a profound sense of geometry did not prevent the artist from observing minor details of nature so much so that later on zoologists also declared the animal species as recognizable.

Egyptian Art ranging from sculpture to tomb paintings to architecture, all adhered to the laws that constituted to form their signature style. These set of rules were studied by every artist at the beginning of their careers, for instance, seated statues having hands placed on the knees or men painted in darker skin tones than women.

Similarly, the portrayal of gods also had rules to abide by e.g Horns the sun god had to be depicted with a falcon’s head or Anubis the god of death was represented with a jackal’s head. Originality lacked in Egyptian Art because it wasn’t really expected of the artist, a good artist was who imitated admired monuments of the past as closely as possible. Resultantly Egyptian Art didn’t go through changes throughout its span of more than 3000 years. Everything considered praiseworthy was as commendable a thousand years later. New trends did appear overtime but the representation of man and nature remained the same.

It was not until a disastrous invasion of Egypt, that a few significant changes Egyptian style of Art underwent during the period identified as the “New Kingdom”. The person responsible was the 18th dynasty pharaoh “Amenophis IV” whose belief was contrary to the orthodox religious doctrine. He thus negated quite a few customs that were practised as age-old tradition.

KING AMENOPHIS IV, Limestone relief, about 1370 BC, Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Agyptisches Museum

For him, only the God of sun “Aton” was supreme whom he worshipped and represented in the form of the sun. He vilified all other gods and named himself Akhnaton after his god. The imagery that he commissioned omitted earlier pharaohs, instead he had himself portrayed, lifting his daughter on his knees and walking with his wife in the garden. A couple of his portraits depict him as an ugly man maybe because he wanted the artists to convey the element of vulnerability or maybe he was convinced of his distinct significance as a prophet.

The next pharaoh to take charge was Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered in 1922. During his tenure, ancient Egyptian beliefs were restored, and the window to the outside world was sealed again. The Egyptian style as had existed before his time continued to exist for more than a thousand years with the Egyptians believing it would last forever. Majority of the works we come across in museums belong to this later period in Egyptian history. New themes were introduced but nothing substantially new was added to the achievement of Art.

GREECE (Seventh to Fifth century BC)

Crete, considered to be the fifth biggest island of the Mediterranean and the largest in Greece, was once the main centre of the peninsulas of Greece and Asia Minor. Crete along with other islands of the region was thought to be the hiding places of adventurous seamen and private kings who travelled extensively, piling up wealth in their castles by means of trade and surprise attacks in the sea.

Kings of the main centre, the island of Crete, were wealthy and powerful who sent delegations to Egypt and whose Art created an impression there too. It’s still not determined, who were the people that ruled Crete and whose Art was emulated in Mycenae, part of the Greek mainland. Around 1000 BC, tribes from Europe infiltrated into Greece and the shores of Asia, defeating the previous occupants.

Greek vase in the Geometric style made about 700 BC. Athens, National Archaeological Museum

Initially, the Art of these tribal residents for a few centuries seemed tyrannical and crude in nature. Pottery was embellished with plain basic geometric patterns with imagery amalgamated in the design. For instance, the image below is from a Greek vase belonging to 700 BC that depicts the mourning of a death. A dead man lying on a bier with women on both sides experiencing the grief, their hands upon their heads, a custom seen in all ancient societies.

 

The mourning of the dead. From a Greek vase in the Geometric style made about 700 BC. Athens, National Archaeological Museum

 

This very simplicity, order, and organization were also clearly evident in the style of Architecture introduced by the Greeks in the early days are still seen in our towns and cities. The image underneath depicts the initial old style of Greek temples, named after the tribe of Spartans, namely the Doric tribe. The earliest of such temples were constructed out of timber, comprising of a small cubicle that held the image of the god.

A Doric Temple: the Parthenon. Athens, Acropolis, Designed by Iktinos, about 450 BC

Around 600 BC, the Greeks began emulating these simple structures in stone. The wooden poles for support were transformed into columns that bore the strong stone cross beams. These crossbeams, called Architraves supported the entire unit, resting on columns and collectively known as “Entablature”. The ends of beams were marked with three slits usually familiar with the name “Triglyphs”, meaning three slits. The space between the beams known as “Metope”.

The fact that architects did not prefer simple cubic pillars or cylindrical columns speaks volumes of their aesthetic sensibilities, instead they shaped the columns with slight swellings towards the middle and tapering off towards the top, that made them look elastic in nature, having the ability to bear the burden of the entire roof.

Around 600 BC, the first stone temples came into being in Athens, Greece. It was here that the most significant and impressive revolution in the history of Art and Architecture took place. Prior to this, artists of ancient East Asian empires had made great efforts to achieve this particular type of magnificence. They tried to imitate the Art of their ancestors as closely as possible and thus stick to the rules they had adopted.

Fabrication in stone was the next step from where the Egyptians and Assyrians had left. The Greeks studied the human body closely by emulating the  Egyptian way of approaching figurative sculpture. The image below represents two Greek stone figures that date back to around 580 BC which clearly bring forward an attempt of experimentation and innovation. The artist seemed to have focused on peculiar details such as that of the knees. Even though less convincing than the Egyptian figures, but the point being the artist deviated from age-old traditions in quest of variation and change. Egyptians had their Art based on knowledge whereas the Greek sculptor adhered strictly to observation.

Once this revolution got underway, sculptors implemented new ways and techniques of portraying the human figure, adding to their own discoveries. If one discovered how to chisel the trunk, another came up with ways to make the sculpture more alive by removing contact of both feet from the ground. Similarly, progress in facial features was perceived, such as the bending of the mouth in an attempt to bring out a smile or a grin to be precise. The obstacles or hindrance that was encountered by them did not fill them with fear, instead convinced them to progress gradually.

Speaking of Greek Art in terms of painting, we’re only aware of it to the extent Greek writers have enlightened us whereas the important point being, Greek painters were celebrated more than Greek sculptors back in the day.

The only way we could form an opinion of Greek painting of the past is by studying imagery we see on pottery. Painted Greek vases that were used to hold wine, formed an identity and industry of their own in Athens. The craftsmen enjoyed innovation in their vases as much as other artists did in the pursuit of coming up with intriguing new outcomes.

In the vases belonging to the 6th century BC, we see great influences of Egyptian methods and techniques e.g the vase we see in the image below is from around 540 BC that depicts Achilles and Ajax playing draughts in their tent. Speaking of the profile view and the big eyes are clear indications of Egyptian influences but the bodies were shown differently. The body postures including the arms were less rigid, making them look more realistic as the artist discarded ancient rules of depicting what they had knowledge of. As discussed earlier, imagery to quite an extent was based on observation.

Greek Vase in the “Black-figured style” with Achilles and Ajax playing draughts. Signed by Exekias, About 540 BC, Vatican Museum

As a result, painters came up with big discoveries such as the representation of foreshortening. It was also the first time in the history of figurative painting that the artist started illustrating feet from a frontal perspective. This innovation can be observed in the image of the vase below that portrays a young warrior preparing for battle by putting on his armour, his parents on either side, assisting and counselling him before he embarks on his journey. However, the head of the soldier could still be seen in profile, as drawing the head from the front was still considered challenging.

The warrior’s leavetaking, Vase of the red-figured style signed by Euthymides, about 500 BC, Munich, Antiquarium Museum

Looking at the two works discussed earlier, we could deduce that lessons from Egyptian Art were not discarded completely. It seemed a fusion of the past and the then present. Greek painters made clear distinctive outlines of their figures and focused on a harmonious and balanced design.

The revelation of organic forms and foreshortening marked the great revolution of Greek Art, a significant period in human history. It was the time when Greeks started to question ancient traditions and myths about the gods, instead started inquiring and dwelling deep into the character of things.

Theatre emerged for the first time in the form of a ceremony in honour of Dionysus. However, despite all this speedy progress, artists were still considered to belong to the inferior class of society lacking intellect. Artists were mere workers who earned each penny at the cost of their labour and sweat, labourers we could address them as. However, their stakes in the city of Athens were far high in comparison to Egyptian or Assyrian craftsmen. It was considered to be the most overwhelming moment of progress in Athens, a time period characterized by high morale too, because of successfully being able to defend the Persian invasion. The rebuilding of the temples commenced that had been burned down by the Persians, this time constructed with extraordinary dexterity, bringing out a magnificent and splendid appearance. Pericles the ruler at that time treated artists with the utmost dignity and considered them his equivalent. The architect that he called on was “Iktinos” and the sculptor he engaged in the embellishment of temples was “Pheidias”.

Pheidias’s two notable works, Athene and the prestigious statue of Zeus in Olympia are nowhere to be seen today but the temples in which they resided, still exist. As mentioned earlier, Greek figures exuded influences of Egyptian Art and so the magnificence of Greek Sculpture has to be credited to those ancient rules that were brought into practice. Drapery, a featured attraction of Greek Sculpture made use of to mark main divisions of the body speaks volumes of their knowledge of form and human anatomy.

Zeus in Olympia, by Phedias

It is this fusion of traditional rules and the freedom of the artist that counts for the extraordinary appreciation received by Greek Art for centuries after. Artists have revisited Greek sculpture and the masterpieces for Greek Art to seek guidance and inspiration.

The sort of work Greek Artists became acquainted with was primarily figurative, representation of perfect bodies as they had a profound sense of anatomy. This ardent fascination and a vehement feeling of self-glorification are strongly manifested in the statues of triumphant athletes, surrounding the temple of Olympia.

The Greeks were deeply passionate about sports, majority of whom belonged to leading wealthy families of Greece and so the victorious ones were perceived as men who God had favoured with a spell of invincibility.

Excavations in Olympia revealed many pedestals on which these famous figures once stood but none of these statues was to be found. It is believed that because they were made of bronze, it is most likely that inhabitants from the Middle Ages, melted them down when they faced scarcity of metal. Only one of such figures has been discovered to date and that is the head of a Charioteer in bronze.

Head of the bronze statue of a charioteer, found in Delphi, made about 470 BC, Delphi Museum

It clearly depicts the artist’s intention of not replicating reality but shaping it according to his own knowledge of the human body. The features are prominent, colored stones are used in place of the eyes and the light brownish color of gold that adds to the richness and warmth on the face.

Another work that truly reflects the artist’s obsession with the human form and interest in sports, is the “Discus Thrower” by Myron. This sculptural piece portrays an athlete captured in motion, moments before hurling the discus. On closer and critical examination of the piece, we discover how Myron brought about movement through a new way of ancient artistic practice. Drawing resemblance to Egyptian forms, Myron depicts the trunk in frontal view and the arms and legs in profile. Hence we could infer that Myron captured movement in a similar manner to how painters of his time dominated space.

DISCUS THROWER BY MYRON

Nearly every work from this great Greek period is a manifestation of the freedom to capture movement and various postures of the human body in an attempt to represent the emotional and intrinsic states of the figures.

In this regard, it is the portrayal of the subconscious that turned tombstones into great works of Art. For instance, the relief below depicts Hegeso buried under the stone. A girl has represented handing over a jewellery box to her, this imagery quite resembles the Egyptian depiction of Pharaoh Tutankhamun perched on his throne and his wife adjusting his collar.

Greek relief was devoid of limitations as was the case with Egyptian reliefs. Greek reliefs maintain an element of beautiful arrangements that are no longer geometrical, accompanied by free-flowing gestures, not rigid as those of the Egyptians. The flow of drapery encompassing the human form seems so calm and serene, thereby giving rise to Greek Art of the 5th century.

GREECE (Fifth century BC to First Century AD)

The sudden awareness of the transition of Art to freedom took place in between 520 BC and 420 BC. As the fifth century concluded, artists along with the public realized the actual power they possessed in terms of skill.

Despite the fact that artists were still identified as craftsmen, an overwhelming population started taking a keen interest in the artist’s work without any bias or perceiving it as something that fulfilled a particular function, entirely viewing Art for its purity. People had started differentiating between various Art schools belonging to different regions, thereby understanding diverse styles, traditions, and processes. As a result of these comparisons of schools, competition increased and artists started putting in all the more effort that eventually gave rise to the variety in Greek Art that was and still is worthy of appreciation.

Changes in architectural styles were notable, particularly the shift from Doric to Ionic style. For instance, the renown Parthenon that was constructed in the Doric style back then was replaced by the Ionic building style, that exuded changes in appearance and character. The photograph below is of Ionic temple namely “Erechtheion”, whose columns are less sturdy and tough. The headpiece on top was no longer unembellished instead, richly ornamented volutes existed on the sides to support the beam upon which the roof rested. So the spiral scroll volutes fulfilled a function instead of mere decorated extensions.

After the generation of the most popular sculptor of Athens namely “Phidias”, Athens indulged in a battle with Sparta, that marked the decline of prosperity and peace in Greece. In 408 BC followed by a brief period of calmness, the goddess of victory was erected on the Acropolis, along with which sculptures and other ornaments also started to exude the Ionic style.

A Goddess of victory. From the balustrade around the temple of Victory in Athens. Erected in 408 BC, Athens, Acropolis Museum

The image above depicts the goddess of victory, sadly mutilated, nevertheless emanating a profound attraction. It is a female figure, one of the numerous goddesses of victory, attaining a peculiar posture to loosen her sandal as she walks. The brief pause is depicted in such a meticulous manner, the thin drape encapsulating her body. These works were a manifestation of the artist’s freedom during that period, this ease and righteousness made him a bit self-conscious too.

Detail from the procession of horsemen, the marble frieze of the Parthenon, About 440 BC, London British Museum.

 

In comparison, the artist who did the marble frieze of the Parthenon back then in 440 BC, did not ponder and form opinions of his Art. He knew he had to execute a particular task and that’s it, hardly conscious of the fact that people would be discussing and appreciating his craft a thousand year later and more.

Perhaps Frieze of the Victory temple marked a change in attitude as the artist felt immense pleasure derived from his achievements. Resultantly the approach towards Art changed during the 4th century. In contrast to Phidias’s sculptures of gods that gained popularity all over Greece, the fourth-century statues of the great temple acquired admiration by virtue of their beauty as great works of Art. Paintings and sculptures then became part of discussions amongst the educated class of Greece, similar to the analysis of poetry and theatre. In a way, Art appraisal and criticism of form and creation made an appearance on the urban landscape of Greece.

Praxiteles was considered to be the master of Greek Art of the 4th Century AD, known for his satisfying, pleasant an expressive creations. His widely popular work was the depiction of the goddess of love, the young charming aphrodite stepping into her bath. This work is also most celebrated because of its mention in poems. Unfortunately, this iconic work had disappeared.

Another known piece by Praxiteles was the statue of the god Hermes holding young Dionysus on his arm and playing with him. In comparison to the Greek sculptures of 580 BC, we can sense the massive transformation in Greek Art over a period of two hundred years. In the work of Praxiteles, sculptures have far more fluidity and are less robust. The god Hermes stands before us in a calm and composed manner, a comfortable posture that does not diminish or weaken his dignity. This effect achieved by Praxiteles makes us realize the importance of lessons of ancient Art discussed earlier. Praxiteles in his practice focused on body joints that explained the physical working of the human body. He was able to master the Art of depicting bones and muscles in the most delicate and realistic manner.

It is important to note that Praxiteles and other Greek artists had immense knowledge of the human body that enabled them to achieve tremendous beauty in their works. Their works are the epitomes of the human form and anatomy in terms of symmetry, delicacy, detail, and realism. They idealized beauty to such an extent that they preferred to omit certain flaws or irregularities that did not conform to their notions of the exemplary body.

Many of the most notable works of Classical Art that were later regarded as perfect sculptures of the human form, were actually copies of the ones created by the Greeks during that period. The image below is of Apollo Belvederes, the

 

 

 

 

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