According to the history books, Greek art is said to be a mix of Egyptian, Syrian, Minoan and Persian cultures. Greek sculptors learned both stone carving and bronze-casting from the Egyptians and Syrians, while the traditions of sculpture within Greece were developed by the two main groups of settlers from Thessaly — the Ionians and Dorians.
Timeline of Greek Sculptures
The chronology of sculpture in Ancient Greece is traditionally divided into three main periods:
• The Archaic Period (c.650–500 BCE)
• The Classical Period (c.500–323 BCE)
- The Hellenistic Period (c.323–27 BCE)
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The Archaic Period —
The Archaic period was characterized by a major cultural shift following the Greek Dark Ages… This cultural shift manifested in two main types of Greek sculpture. The first of these is the upright nude male, known as kouros or plural kouroi, meaning ‘youth’ or ‘boy’. They were often used as tombstones to commemorate the deaths of young men or as trophies in games.
On the other hand, the second type of Greek sculpture was the female version of the kouros, the kore or plural korai. Like kouroi, korai are upright standing statues with stiff frames, narrow hips, and blank faces. However, unlike the kouroi, the kore is draped, ornamented with jewelry, a dress, and sometimes a crown or headdress. They also hold fruits or other symbols of female fertility in front of them.
Classical Period —
The Classical period in Ancient Greece saw the end of the aristocracy, the dissolution of the Athenian tyranny in 510 BC, and then later the introduction of Athenian democracy. The Classical period produced a plethora of memorable works of art and has even been considered a ‘golden age’.
Classical Greek sculpture incorporated more diverse figure types and bodily poses as well as a sharp increase in technical dexterity, resulting in far more naturalistic and realistic sculptures compared to their Archaic predecessors. It was also noted as the first period to represent individuals in sculpture rather than the archetypal ‘young male’ like the kouroi of the Archaic period.
Hellenistic Period —
The Hellenistic Period began after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and ended at the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC. It has been seen as a continuation, refinement, and expansion of Greek, or Hellenistic, influence in the Mediterranean world after Alexander the Great.
Hellenistic Period sculpture can be characterized by a marked increase in expression from Classical sculpture. Many artistic subjects appear significantly more dramatized than before and for the first time emotive facial expressions featured in monumental sculpture. While the Archaic and Classical periods focused on idealized subjects and figures, the Hellenistic embraced adverse themes such as suffering, old age, and death. Artists no longer clung to the ideal of physical perfection, exploring other artistic avenues.