Greek art (or, more properly, art in Greece) started in the Minoan and Cycladic pre-historical civilizations, and origin of Western classical art in the subsequent Geometric, Archaic & Classical periods (along with further developments throughout the Hellenistic Period). It absorbed effect of Eastern civilizations, of Roman art & its patrons, & the new religion of Orthodox Christianity in absorbed Italian and the Byzantine era and European ideas throughout the period of Romanticism ( along with the invigoration of the Greek Revolution), right up until the Postmodernist and Modernist. Greek art is chiefly five forms: sculpture, painting, pottery , architecture and jewelry making.
The arts of ancient Greece have exercised huge influence on the culture of several countries all over the world, specifically in the areas of architecture and sculpture. In the West, the art of the Roman Empire was mostly derived from Greek models. In the East, Alexander the Great's conquests initiated several centuries of exchange among Greek, Central Asian, and Indian cultures, resulting in Greco-Buddhist art, along with ramifications in so far as Japan. Following the Renaissance in Europe, the humanist aesthetic & the high technical standards of Greek art inspired generations of European artists. Within the 19th century, the classical tradition derived through Greece dominated the art of the western world.
In realism, there was a sharp transition from one period to another. Forms of art developed at distinct speeds in distinct parts of the Greek world, and as in any age some of the artists worked in more innovative styles than others. Strong local traditions, conservative by character, and the necessities of local cults, enable historians to place the origins even of displaced works of art.
What were the different phases of ancient Greek Art?
There were several phases from the 16th century BC, till the Greeks suffered defeat at the hands of the Romans at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. The phases are as follows roughly:
Mycenaean Art took place from roughly 1550 to 1200 BC on the Greek mainland. Although the Greek and Mycenaean cultures were two separate entities, they took place the same lands, successively. The latter learned a few things from the former, by including how to build tombs and gates.
Besides architectural explorations by including Cyclopean masonry and "beehive" tombs, the Mycenaeans were grand potters and goldsmiths. They raised pottery from just functional to beautifully decorative and segued right out of the Bronze Age to their own insatiable appetite for gold. (One suspects that that the Mycenaeans were so rich they weren't satisfied with a humble alloy.)
Approximate 1200 and the Homeric fall of Troy, the Mycenaean culture died & dwindled, followed by an artistic phase known both as Sub-Mycenaean and/or the "Dark Ages". This phase, lasting from c. 1100 - 1025 BC, saw a bit of continuity along with the previous artistic doings, however no innovation.
From c. 1025 - 900 BC, the Proto-Geometric phase saw pottery starting to be decorated along with simple shapes, wavy lines and black bands. In addition, both technique in creating, and shapes of pots were being refined.
Geometric Art has been assigned the years of 900 - 700 BC. Its name is utterly descriptive of the art created throughout this phase. Pottery decoration moved beyond simple shapes to also comprise animals & humans. However, everything was rendered along with the use of simple geometric shapes.
Archaic Art, from c. 700 - 480 BC, started with an Orientalizing Phase (735 - 650 BC). In this case, elements from other civilizations started to creep into Greek art. The elements were those of Near East (not precisely what we think of as "Oriental" now, but bear in mind the world was a lot "smaller" in those days).
The Archaic phase is best known for the starting of realistic depictions of humans and (no coincidence) monumental stone sculptures. It was throughout the Archaic that the limestone kouros (male) & kore (female) statues were created always illustrating nude, young , smiling persons.
(Interesting aside: The Archaic, & subsequent Classical & Hellenistic periods each contained separate Early, High & late phases as like the Italian Renaissance would further on down the road.)
Classical Art (480 - 323 BC) was built during a "golden age", as of the time Athens rose to prominence, to Greek expansion and right up till the death of Great and Alexander. It was during this period that human statues became so bravely proportioned. Certainly, they were reflective of Greek Humanistic belief in the nobility of man and, possibly, a wish to look a bit like gods as well as the invention of metal chisels competent of working marble.
Lastly, Hellenistic Art (323 - 31 BC) - quite like Mannerism - went a wee bit over the top. Meantime Alexander had died, and things got chaotic in Greece as his empire broke separately, Greek sculptors had mastered carving marble. They were so perfect technical, that they began sculpt impossibly heroic humans. People just do not look as symmetrical, flawlessly or beautiful in real life, as those sculptures - which may describe why the sculptures remain so popular after all these years.
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