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Greek art has gone through many stages through out the course of its history. Over the years, the Greeks strived to perfect the faces, bodies as well as the human form in their sculptures. They experimented with many types of techniques. Archaic Period was the beginning of the advancement into a more realistic depiction of the human form for the Greeks. The Early Classical Period is a time where sculptors are trying to depict the human body in the most realistic fashion as possible. In the Early Classical period, Greeks focused more on making this piece believable, as if it was based on a real person.
Sculptures that can be found in the Temple of Aphaia show the beginnings of the transition towards the Classical period. The Dying Warrior sculpture depicts good musculature but it does not tense the body with movement. The warrior has been wounded with an arrow. Moreover, the Dying Warrior displays an archaic smile.
The latter pediment of 480 is severe style, and in the same subject matter is depicted with more serious facial expressions. In addition, musculature is clearly tensed with effort and bodies are well defined. This shows that by the early 5 th century BC only twenty years can make a drastic difference in architectural sculpture. The smile should not be taken literally. Rather the smile seems to be the Archaic sculptors way of indicating that the subject is alive, and in adopting such a convention, the Greek artist is delivering a very different message from Egyptian art. From this time on, Archaic Greek statues will smile at the viewers, even in the most inappropriate contexts when dying warrior with an arrow in his chest, smiles broadly at a spectator.
The warriors facial features were more natural. We see no more almond shaped eyes. They eyes were usually in laid with either glass or gold to look more natural. The facial structure was no longer as rigid as before. The chin was naturally oval shaped; the nose was no longer as pointed. His facial expression invites the viewer to guess what he is feeling as appose to sculptures of the past, which consisted of nothing but a tiny smile.
The hands and feet were presented with detail. As we move on to the High Classical period it becomes more and more acceptable to show the nude female body. In this High Classical period attention to tiny details is very important. The body is portrayed more realistically and not as idealized as before. The sculptures are not just simple poses anymore; they are records of events sculpted, as they would have happened in full motion. The Diskobolos (Discus Thrower), was originally created by the Greek artist Myron in bronze c. 450 BC, and survived as a Roman marble copy.
The sculpture was executed during a period of transition between the Early and High Classical styles, and its natural anatomy and twisting pose are new conventions. The sculptor Myron followed the classical path towards realism of the anatomy, while avoiding expression of emotion. The Discus Thrower creates the powerful illusion of spiraling outwards from an imaginary vertical axis, which shows that the thrower is ready to throw the disk. The naturalism of the body is astonishing: the muscles and swollen veins in the hands refer to a real rather than an idealized discus thrower. The realism of the earlier period has now disappeared and been replaced by idealization and academic coldness. In couple of centuries, realism returned to Hellenistic art.
Emotion runs wild in the Hellenistic period. During this time Greeks had finally reached the appearance that they were looking for in their sculptures. Each piece gives its viewer a real sense of feeling along with it. Bodies were portrayed so beautifully that they could be mistaken for real people.
A wonderful example of the male body in the Hellenistic Period would be the Hellenistic Ruler. With the trend toward naturalism in mind, it seems like a contradiction that individual faces of Hellenistic Ruler sculpture could be combined with divine attributes and ideal, ageless bodies. We can observe the muscles in every part of the males body. From the back view, we have a beautiful rendering of the male back; full of muscles with a narrow line of the spine running through the middle of it.
This piece not only shows the beauty of the male body in a captivating realistic way, it shows how much the Greeks have improved with their depiction of the human form since the Geometric Period. The combination of distant, ideal elements with naturalistic features in ruler portraiture was the visual response to a new social and religious phenomenon: the charismatic human as living god. However, this merging of features can be recognized in other sculptures as well. Although beauty in a piece was greatly admired the Hellenistic period, the sculptors did not just depict beautiful things. Later in the Hellenistic period, the themes of pathos and drama reached its zenith. Movement, emotion, and reality were the main goals to reach in this period.
Greek art is to be compared by no other. None can match the amazing creativity and skill of the Greeks. They went from the Geometric period where sculpture merely consisted simple shapes onto the Archaic period where mirrored Egyptian art. From then the Greeks progressed to Early Classical art where creating art that is more realistic was the goal of sculptors then.
In the Highly Classical art period, we see the Greeks perfect this goal. Finally, we reach the Hellenistic Period where this perfected art can be used in different ways to show feelings, actions and emotion. Greek cultures masterpieces have shaped and provided a backbone for sculptures in the future.
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