A History of Greek Art eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 181 pages of information about A History of Greek Art.
“Modern Painters,” Part II, Section II, Chap.  III.] Of the two verdicts the latter is surely much nearer the truth.  The calmness which Hawthorne thought he saw in the Laocoon is not there; there is only a terrible torment.  Battle, wounds, and death were staple themes of Greek sculpture from first to last; but nowhere else is the representation of physical suffering, pure and simple, so forced upon us, so made the “be-all and end-all” of a Greek work.  As for the date of the group, opinion still varies considerably.  The probabilities seem to point to a date not far removed from that of the Pergamene altar; i.e., to the first half of the second century B.C.

Macedonia and Greece became a Roman province in 146 B.C.; the kingdom of Pergamum in 133 B.C.  These political changes, it is true, made no immediate difference to the cause of art.  Greek sculpture went on, presently transferring its chief seat to Rome, as the most favorable place of patronage.  What is called Roman sculpture is, for the most part, simply Greek sculpture under Roman rule.  But in the Roman period we find no great, creative epoch of art history; moreover, the tendencies of the times have already received considerable illustration.  At this point, therefore, we may break off this sketch.


Greek painting.

The art of painting was in as high esteem in Greece as the art of sculpture and, if we may believe the testimony of Greek and Roman writers, achieved results as important and admirable.  But the works of the great Greek painters have utterly perished, and imagination, though guided by ancient descriptions and by such painted designs as have come down to us, can restore them but dimly and doubtfully.  The subject may therefore here be dismissed with comparative brevity.

In default of pictures by the great Greek masters, an especial interest attaches to the work of humbler craftsmen of the brush.  One class of such work exists in abundance—­the painted decorations upon earthenware vases.  Tens of thousands of these vases have been brought to light from tombs and sanctuaries on Greek and Italian sites and the number is constantly increasing.  Thanks to the indestructible character of pottery, the designs are often intact.  Now the materials and methods employed by the vase-painters and the spaces at their disposal were very different from those of mural or easel paintings.  Consequently inferences must not be hastily drawn from designs upon vases as to the composition and coloring of the great masterpieces.  But the best of the vase-painters, especially in the early fifth century, were men of remarkable talent, and all of them were influenced by the general artistic tendencies of their respective periods.  Their work, therefore, contributes an important element to our knowledge of Greek art history.

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A History of Greek Art from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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