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Classical Greece and Early Twentieth Century Art

Classical Greece and Early Twentieth Century Art


The classical Greek period of art is between 480 – 323 B.C. This era is believed to be the most influential time in the history of western art. It was during this period that artists sculpted statues of perfectly proportioned and flawless bodies. The faces on these figures displayed a sense of serenity and human dignity. The meticulous attention to detail of the human anatomy set the standard for flawless beauty. In addition to sculpture, the Classic Greek artists were master painters. The majority of paintings told a story and was displayed on black and red figure vases. Painted murals adorned the walls of some buildings during this time and, like the painted vases, they too illustrated a story. Another influential period in art is that of the first half of the twentieth century. Many new styles of art emerged during this time, the ever-changing moral and social climate allowed sculptors and painters to abandon traditional artistic concepts for more unconventional methods. Art movements such as the surrealist, cubist, and Harlem renaissance produced works that were considered disturbing, expressive, and thought provoking. Although these two eras of art are separated by style, technique, and two thousand years, the study of art would be incomplete without emphasizing the importance of sculpture and painting produced in the periods of classical Greek and early twentieth century.

The brief period of time between the close of the Archaic period and the height of Classical period brought a remarkable transformation of style and tone known as the Severe Style. Facial features that represented the dignity, self-control, and moral ideals of the time characterize sculpture created during this era. Unlike the pointed features of the Archaic period, the severe style is constructed with a broad nose, wide open eyes, full lips, and a rounded firm jaw and chin. The most important change in style during this time was that of the mouth; the tight slim smile so prominent in archaic pieces has been replaced by an expression of harmony. As stated by art historian, Frederick Hartt, “The firm beauty of the features and facial proportions preferred by the severe style is seen at its grandest in the Blond Youth.”(159). (Illustration 1) The blond color that could once be seen in the hair gives this statue its name. The hair is meticulously detailed, framing the young boys face with individual...

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