Hellenic Sculpture and Hellenistic Sculpture First the Term Paper

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Hellenic sculpture and Hellenistic sculpture? First, the Greek Hellenic period dates from 900-323 B.C., and the Hellenistic period came right after that and lasted until 31 B.C. The focus of the Hellenic period is Idealism, while the focus of the Hellenistic period is Realism. Hellenic art and sculpture was developed mostly in Greece, with no outside influence, while Hellenistic art and sculpture became more influenced by other lands, because of conquests by Alexander the Great.

Hellenic art was moderate and restrained, as it strived for the universal and perfect components. It had a strong emphasis on traditions and rules. An example of this point is by Aristotle's observation that poetry is more profound than history, because it deals with what is universally true; whereas history deals with individual instances that may not be representative of the whole. During this time, they followed all rules about art and architecture. Archaeologists were later able to date this architecture much easier than they could Hellenistic art. Creativity was not valued like it is today, as they valued art as a product of skill, and left the "divine inspiration" to the poetry writers.

Greek sculpture, from before 480 B.C., is crude in its representation of human anatomy, but still has the freshness and vigor of youth. These statues of nude youths (kouros) and draped maidens (kore) usually stand stiffly with clenched fists, with one foot thrust awkwardly forward; an obvious imitation of Egyptian statues. The fixed smile and formalized treatment of hair and drapery also reveal the sculptors' struggle to master their art.

It didn't value originality, as it followed art and sculptures of previous artists. It was stiff, symmetric, and unnatural, as it followed strict lines. Despite these rules and traditions, some artists were willing to experiment with new techniques. Mastery of these new techniques in 480 B.C. ushered in the Classical Greek art period. These "classical" principles of harmony, proportion, and realism have ties to the modern Western form of art and sculptures. Hellenic sculpture displays an idealization of the human form -- stiff and proper. Religious and moral values were also incorporated into the sculptures.

An example of this can be seen in the picture of a Hellenic sculpture:


Drawing of New York Kouros, ca. 580 BC left, and Kroisos kouros, ca 525 BC, right)

The famous sculptor, Phidias, carved relief sculptures on the outside of the Parthenon, and carved a colossal ivory and gold statue of Athena on the inside. The art of the time focused on charm, grace and individuality. Pottery, the oldest Greek art, followed crude imitations of Mycenaean forms from the beginning of the Greek Dark age.

The Parthenon sculptures have a specific significance, because they rank high among the surviving originals of the 5th century B.C. The sculptural decoration of the Parthenon is a unique combination of the Doric me topes and triglyphs on the entablature, and the Ionic frieze on the walls of the cellar. The me topes depict the Gigantomachy on the east side, the Amazons on the west, the Centaurs on the south, and scenes from the Trojan War on the north.

The relief frieze depicts the Procession of the Panathenaea, the most formal religious festival of ancient Athens. The scene runs along all the four sides of the building and includes the figures of gods, beasts and of some 360 humans. The two pediments of the temple are decorated with mythological scenes: the east, above the building's main entrance, shows the birth of Athena, and the west, the fight between Athena and Poseidon for the name of the city of Athens. The Parthenon retained its religious character in the following centuries and was converted into a Byzantine church, a Latin church and a Muslim mosque.

Here is an example of this: http://thefey.surfsyou.net/~jeancopeland/history/greek_doric.jpg

In the sixth century B.C., architecture flourished with the construction of large temples of stone. Their form was a development from earlier wooden structures influenced by the remains of Mycenaean palaces. Architecture, like so many other aspects of Greek culture, reached its zenith in Athens during the fifth century B.C.

For a generation after the Persian Wars, the Athenian Acropolis was left bare, to remind citizens of what the Persians did to their city. However, in 449 B.C., Athens finally signed a peace treaty with Persia, so Pericles launched a great building program, because he felt that the glory of the city should be expressed in some visible form.

The Parthenon, the Erechtheum, and the other temples on the Acropolis exhibit the highly developed features that make Greek architecture so pleasing to the eye. All relationships, such as column spacing, height, and the curvature of the floor and roof lines were calculated and executed with remarkable precision to achieve a perfect balance, both structurally and visually. For example, they gave the columns a delicate curve so that they appear straight from a distance.

The three styles of columns were the simple: Doric, which was used in the Parthenon; the Ionic, seen in the Erechtheum; and the later, more ornate Corinthian. Unlike the temples of older civilizations, which were enclosed and mysterious places, the Greek temple was open, with a colonnade porch and a single room for a statue of the god. Sacrifice and ritual took place outside the temple, where the altar was placed.

Hellenistic art and sculpture took on more ideas from other cultures. They developed interest in the individual -- features, emotions, and a realistic view of the human body. Their interests migrated over to the portraits and ethnic differences, novelties of art, and even the ugliness of a particular aspect of life. Inventiveness began to matter in this period, and emotions made its way into art of the time. Some artists took this to melodramatic proportions. Artists' abilities had more weight than rules, and creativity gained more acceptance in the artist and consumer world.

Paintings and sculptures of this time moved into the liberal arts class. It was realistic and natural as opposed to the stiff, formal lines of the Hellenic period. Emotions, pain and suffering were emphasized with the realistic view of art. Though religious and moral values still had an impact on their art, secular views made its way into the sculptures. More admiration was given to the female beauty, as well. They were more interested in the scenes from daily life. Attentions were turned to more eroticism and violence, while providing an element of truthfulness. They adapted many Hellenic forms into their arts.

During the Hellenistic period, the development of naturalism can be seen to follow a more-or-less linear path and when combined with a number of works whose dates are known enables a reasonably accurate developmental chronology to be established. However, for Hellenistic works, there are far fewer fixed points; in addition, there is no single style that can be traced in all the works. Realism, neo-classicism, baroque and rococo all figure in Hellenistic works.

The following is an example of Hellenistic art and naturalism:

Above left is a drawing of "The Dying Gaul; Right: "The Gaul + his Wife,"

Both: Roman marble copies after bronze originals of ca 220 BC

Dying Gaul h: 3' Gaul + his wife, h: 6' 11")

The lack of influence of the ordinary individual was to lead, contra-intuitively perhaps, to the third characteristic of Hellenistic Art - individualism. Faced with the meaninglessness of individual life, the philosophical schools, most notably the Cynics and Epicureans, began to examine the inner self and to formulate ideas of what one's place in the universe was. These discourses led to a fascination with the thoughts and actions of the individual and "a strong feeling in the Hellenistic world that what the individual experienced was more interesting than what society as a whole experienced."

The growth of biography as a literary genre, as reflected in the works of Plutarch, can be seen to have its origins in this mentality, which in terms of the visual arts led to an obsession with depicting the inner consciousness of the subject. At the higher end, this manifested itself in the Royal portrait, reaching its zenith under Lysippos of Sikyon at Alexander's court.

Works such as the 'Old Fisherman' and 'Drunken Old Woman' portray a sense of pathos with an uncompromising social realism and fascination with the state of human being. Such depictions of strikingly realistic, non-idealized images are dramatically different from their classical predecessors, but remain something of a mystery with respect to their intended audience. The sheer number of this type of sculpture, coupled with the amount of copies that were made, indicate that such types define an important characteristic of Hellenistic Art.

What purpose they served, whether for private display or civic use, is unclear. Maybe they were used in festivals. What is clear, however, is that these 'lower-order' characters represented not only a fundamental change in the manner of depiction, but a change in the subject matter. Classical art had restricted itself to subjects such as gods, athletes and…

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