Classical Greek Art is characterized by the emerging need among artists to imitate and perfect the ideal human form through idealized naturalism. The Classical period is marked by the introduction of the contrapposto position first seen in the Kritios Boy (ca 480 BC). The function of sculptures during this period was mostly to glorify gods and athletes usually depicted as male nudes. One of the most renowned sculptures of an athlete from that period is Polykleitos’ Doryphoros a bronze original (ca 450 BC) that now only exists in marble copies. Polykleitos made it to serve as a standardization for future sculptures.
He intended to perfect the human being using the contrapposto pose as well as measuring the body to be able to fit eight heads stacked on top of each other as the dimensions of the ideal. The flexed limbs and the relaxed limbs oppose each other diagonally, with right arm and left leg relaxed while left arm and right leg are ready for action. The head is turned in opposite direction of the slight twist of the hips and is a much more natural pose for a human than the stiff awkward poses of Ancient Egyptian Art. Classical Greek art also had innovations in bronze.Order now
While The Hellenistic period of Greek Art still utilized naturalism in its art, it began to move away from idealism and started to lean more towards realism. As artists gained more freedom to explore social realism they started to create sculptures and art depicted the old, the poor and the suffering. The Old Market Woman (ca 150 BCE) depicts an old woman bringing chickens and a basket of fruits and vegetables to sell in the market. She’s bent over with exhaustion and a broken spirit. She is wrinkled and very realistic. Her drapery responds to gravity and her chest bones are visible at the top of her skinny body.
Another classical Hellenistic piece is Athanadoros, Hagesandros and Polydoros of Rhodes’ LaocoÐ”¶n and his sons (ca 1st century BCE). LacoÐ”¶n was a priest in Troy and warned everyone of “Greeks bearing gifts”, of course no one believed him and he was punished by the gods for his attempt at thwarting the Greeks. Although LacoÐ”¶n is indeed in a naturalized idealistic form, his face displays so much agony and anguish as he appears to be screaming in pain while struggling to free himself of the serpents. His hair seems soft and natural and his face embodies so much agony. His muscles are flexing exactly where they should be with veins popping out on his arms as he struggles to pull serpents off of his body.
Artists during the Hellenistic period were very aware of how their subjects interacted with their environment. The sculpture of Nike on a Warship (Nike of Samothrace ca 190 BCE) depicts the goddess Nike with elaborate wings and wind attacking her drapery. Her garments appear to subtly stick to her body because of the water and whip wildly in the wind. The piece was displayed in the upper basin of a two-tiered fountain with the statue reflecting in the water to create the effect of lightness and movement. Hellenistic Art rejected Polykleitos’ standardization of perfection in measurement and idealism and instead created very real, very emotive statues that interact with their environment.