In this episode we’re chatting about Greek art, but specifically art from the Archaic period (about 800-500 BC). It’s an interesting period that leads to the Golden Age of Greece and the Roman empire. The Archaic period forms a link between Ancient Egyptian art and Classical Roman art. We chat about this connection when it comes to Greek sculptures and pottery (since so much of it has lasted these thousands of years), but we leave a discussion of architecture for episode #32. We have a conversation about nudity in art and how to handle it in class and at home. Finally, we chat about the Drawing Greek Gods Upside Down lesson plan and provide some tips for making it go smoothly.
Stay tuned for all the episodes in this Drawing Ancient Art series!
- Podcast #28: Exploring Prehistoric Art
- Podcast #29: Egyptian Art- Variety and Consistency
- Podcast #30: Greek Art- Linking Ancient to Modern Art
- Podcast #31: Celtic Art
- Podcast #32: Greek and Roman Architecture
- Podcast #33: Illuminated Manuscripts
Interested in learning more about art history?
We cover a little bit of art history in this episode to help us get our bearings as we look at the Archaic Greek period. For a big picture look at art history and a handy (free) time-chart of art history, see:
- Podcast #13: Art History- How to Go from Confused to Confident (a 10 minute big picture overview of art history and the free time-chart of art history)
- Podcast #14: Why and How to Study Art History (reasons to study art history and an explanation of the free time-chart of art history- plus a collection of great paintings from each period)
Here’s the detailed timeline we covered about Greece
- Mycenaeans: (1400 – 1200/1100) After the advanced Minoan culture on Crete was weakened by a nearby volcanic eruption, it was conquered by the Mycenaean’s around 1450 BCE. The Mycenaeans (now called the Greeks) spread out and won a famous battle with Tory. Then, there was a time of prosperity and beautiful painted pottery with heavy Cretan influence. This is sometimes called the “Age of Heroes.”
- Greek Dark Ages (1200/1100 – 800 BCE): Next Greece fell into a “Dark Ages,” meaning we now have very little recorded history from this period. Historians are not totally certain why this time period was so dark (remember, “dark” only means we now have very little recorded history from this time period), but suspect it was because of the invasion of the war-like Dorians and other unknown factors.
- Archaic Period (800-500 BCE): Around 800 BCE, the people in Greece, started recording their history using the Phoenician alphabet, ending the dark age. The Greek city-states started colonizing the land around the Mediterranean Sea and growing rich again. We call this the Archaic Period.
- Golden Age of Greece (500-300 BCE): Athens and Sparta grew strong, and when the Persians tried to invade, Athens and Sparta fought hard to maintain their freedom (499-449 BCE). The Greeks had a strong fleet, advanced battle methods and the Spartan fighting mentality that helped them win an under-dog victory. Athens, the political center, became the center of the Greek world. Sparta was jealous of Athens and eventually invaded Athens in what we now call the Peloponnesian wars (432-404 BCE). Athens eventually admitted defeat but really both sides lost because they were left week and vulnerable. Still, this was a good time for art and plays, so it’s general included in the ‘Golden Age’ years.
- Alexander the Great (336 BCE): From Macedonia, Alexander the Great came and conquered the weakened Greeks around 336 BCE. Alexander’s empire merged eastern Buddhist ideas with Greek ideas, which can be seen in their art.
- Roman Empire (146 BCE): Soon, in 146 BCE, the Roman empire would re-conquer the area. However, the Greek culture remained and was eventually spread by the Romans.
Kouroi & Korai Statues and Pottery
The best and most numerous samples of art from the Arachic period (besides architecture) are statues and pottery. When we compare these works of art to similar works in other art periods we can start to see the influence Egyptian art had on Classical Roman art and therefore all Western art.
For example, we can see this progression of art when looking at ancient Egyptian statues like this limestone statue of Nenkheftka or this Egyptian guardian figure, then Archaic Greek statues like this kourus, then Classical Greek statues like these marble funerary statues, and finally Roman statues like Augustus of Prima Porta.
Links to Things We Mentioned
- Ancient Greek vase production and the black-figure technique- Video at from the Art Institute of Chicago showing the creating, painting and firing of the red and black pottery.
- Smart History’s Guide to Art and Culture in Ancient Greece
- The British Museum’s guide to ancient Greek pottery and the interactive pottery vase shape selector.
- Upside Down Drawing, as developed by Betty Edwards and described in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.