Archaic Greek Art


Image Source: Art/ ďVolute KraterĒ. Click image for more info.

"In art, all who have done something other than their Predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters"  -Paul gauguin

                           different types of Archaic Art:                          






Image Source: Art/ †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Image Source:

†† Architecture


                       Image Source(s): , Doric entablature at Temple of Aphaia (left) ; ,††††††††††

†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††The Parthenon (center) ; , Temple of Athena-Nike (right). Click images for more info.

Iíve discovered the many styles of Greek Architecture, and the fact that they are all beautiful and brilliant in their own unique ways.


†††† The method of architecture on mainland Greece was the Doric Order created by the Dorians. This distinctive style is categorized by its simplicity. I would think that as a famous Greek style there would be more to it, however this is not the case. After the Mycenaean palaces were destroyed and not longer made, the people launched into new styles of the Doric. This was so popular that we can still recognize it today in modern day buildings.†††


†††† What we can classify as one of the oldest known temples of the Doric influence is the Temple of Hera at Olympia. It is classic example of this simple style. It had 6 columns on either side and 16 along each opposite side. Although it is in ruins today, we can still recognize this specific architecture. I think one of the main reasons that we can still see reproductions of this style today, is that it was created with such simplicity that it withstands time.


†††† A second example of Doric style I found is the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina. This famous temple originally had 12 columns along itís borders. Aegina had been occupied by the Dorians at the time of its construction, and therefore, this is also a prime example.

Image Source(s):, Doric Column at Temple of Hera (above, left) ; , Temple of Aphaia (right).††††††† Click images for more info.

Many classify Doric as the simplest of the architectural orders, and while itís true that this style has no really fancy engravings or structural elements, I still believe that the classic perfection of its design is what draws millions all over the world to the Parthenon, one of the most famous Greek ruins, and , oh yeah, itís also a Doric temple.


†††† While mainland Greece is doing the Doric order, a Grecian traveling along the eastern Aegean sea would see a very different kind of column. (Since, at least I feel, the styles are based mainly on their columns.) This Ionic order is categorized by longer and more slender columns than the Doric. Although, what I find to be the most interesting about the Ionic column is the clever design of the shaft itself. It contains an entasis, or bulge in the column that helps to trick the eye into believing the column is straight, when it actually gets smaller (narrower) as it goes up. Those Greek architects were quite clever! The Ionic is also categorized by the difference in its capitals, the tops of its columns , from the Doric capitals. The Ionic, has scroll-like architectural element on its capital. I think that this is the kind of column design most people today would think of when they picture a "Greek temple".


†††† One of the most famous examples of the Ionic style is the Temple of Athena-Nike. This is, in my opinion, one of the smaller temples on the acropolis, however still magnificent. It contains four columns in front and four in back, and would have held a statue of Athena inside. Siegel)


†††† During the times of Doric and Ionic architecture, there was another, later, style of architecture, known as Corinithian. It seems that the Greeks were never quite satisfied with their column designs. They really wanted a column that was the same all around, those Greeks were really perfectionists! So, they decided to change the capital of the column, creating the Corinithian design. The new capital was an inverted bell shape, decorated with a leaf design. It was definitely the most elaborate of them all.(Art101)

Image Source: , Ionic column at Temple of Athena-Nike (above).. Click image for more info.                                             


†††† So, it seems that the Greek Architects were never quite satisfied with their designs. Changing from Doric to Ionic and finally Corinithian, they came up with all kinds of grand designs that can still be recognized in architecture of today. Itís the classic Greek columns that grace some of the most important building in our country, including most in our nations capital. I have found that Archaic Greek Architecture is a style of art that many donít consider, yet, to me, it is one of the more beautiful. It not only is a anchor for the great temples and palaces of the Greek empire, it is what makes the ruins of those great monuments still as beautiful today as thousands of years ago.


Image source: , Corinthian Capitals. Click images for more Info.




Image Source: Archaic and Classical Greek Art by Robin Osbourne, pg 72, scanned image

        I couldnít find much information on the topic of archaic wall-paintings, which leads me to attempt to answer questions I have based on some observations pointed out by books and of my own. Through looking at Archaic and Classical Art, I made the observation that all of the archaic wall-paintings were found in tombs and temples as opposed to houses and other, more secular places.  A possible answer to why theyíre found there could be that, unlike vases, they serve no purpose except to decorate.  In this utilitarian sense, then, they become a form of abstract art because they have no real use.  Wall-paintings then are possibly forms of higher art for the Greeks, making their use in spiritual places and purpose correspond well; they are complex works going into places centering on the philosophical and mystical thoughts associated with religion and the afterlife. On the other hand, the opposite thoughts could be applied to them too.  Because of their useless nature, the Greeks possibly revered them less than the vase pottery and painting.  Their scarcity could simply be explained by the fact that artisans didnít want to waste their time and energy on something so trivial.  Given that religious issues usually involve intellectual and/or philosophical thought, they become grounded in the unreality of the mind, something that most Greeks possibly disliked.  This could have forced the wall-paintings to reside not in secular, "real" locations but in theoretical, "abstract" places.       


Image Source: , Rhadamanthys.

Click image for more Info.


†††† If the latter reason is correct, then the mythological subject matter fits the unreal feel that they give off and their locations well.  However, because the Greek gods and goddesses resemble humans and have the same types of behavior, they helped the Greeks to understand their own existences.  By showing these scenes, people are shown in both negative and positive aspects of humanity, better learning about their religion and themselves.  The life-loving pictures give praise for their enjoyment of life (Osbourne 167); the others are used as teaching methods, provoking the mind to gain understanding into their own actions, and allowing people to further critique their lives, fixing their problems and mistakes and bettering themselves. From here, Iím going to focus solely on a painting found on a metope (a section of an entablature on the top of a temple) at the Temple of Apollo at Thermon (Osbourne 70-72), showing how it could demonstrate the answers/observations I made.  Once again, the subject deals with a mythological character, Khelidon, whose sisterís husband raped her.  She then kills her attackerís son, feeding him to his father.  The depiction of such perversion of human nature seems to serve as a warning to its viewers, provoking them to think about humanity and itís brutality.  Though the artistic characteristics of Archaic Greece donít look as refined as the following Classical period, facial expression and body language still allow for proper understanding and demonstrate new techniques that the painters experimented with (71).  Khelidonís face displays a determination to avenge her violation (shown through her large, staring pupil).  She leans over something, and according to Osbourne holds the sonís head in her lap.  Though her body leans little, it still shows her in action, unlike some passive and tranquil Classical sculptures. (see pg. 185 for an example).

Image Source: , Aiakos.

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        In the 7th and 6th centuries of the Archaic Age of Greece, many new types of pottery emerged with more complex and meaningful designs.  This age in Greece served to influence art, especially pottery, of all other ages.  There were more innovations in pottery during this time than in any other.


†††† The most common types of pottery were black figure and red figure.  Various topics were covered in the pottery ranging from the beauty of nature such as animal art to the struggles of war such as the hoplite armies.  They also covered mythology and heroism among the upper-class males.  Athletic events, drinking parties, and school and homosexual scenes could all be found in flawless detail on the pottery.  Other new and detailed patterns in pottery included floral and geometric designs.  The images show the emotion and beauty of the event that had not previously been expressed at that time.

Image Source: . Amphora. Click on Image for more info.


†††† The artists most responsible for these works of pottery were Corinthians.  Their pottery was the most distinctive because they took great care in making it creative and detailed, to depict life-like subjects and events.  They also had immense pride in their intricate work as shown by their signatures and messages of competitiveness on their pieces of pottery.  These artists allowed an insight to the life of their people through their pottery.  From political to social life, the Corinthians showed their culture through a new medium and in a new light.(Pomeroy 109-111)


†††† As seen in this image, the black figure technique was widely popular because of beauty, detail and creativity. It consisted of the artist painting black outlines on red clay.  Fine details could then be made by carving with a sharply pointed tool.  The carvings could also be filled in with  white or red paint at the artist's desire making for more animated portrayals of the pottery's subject.


†††† Red figure pottery was created when black figure was so copied and exported that it was no longer a creative design.  This reversed the idea of the black figure technique by drawing outlines, then painting the background black.  An artist could then use a fine brush to paint small details.  This design was more subtle, but not as popular as the black figure design. (Pomeroy 110).


†††† A common subject of pottery at this time was war.  It was largely illustrated to show the battles of their people and the new weapons that were being created during that time period.  More specifically, phalanx war fighting was often shown where groups of Athenian hoplite soldiers lined up shield to shield to protect one another from the oncoming clashes of battle.  Usually eight rows deep, the pottery depicted duplicate images of these soldiers in amazing accuracy.  It is almost as if one can see animation in the hoplite soldiers as they move toward one another in conflict. (Pomeroy 110-111).


†††† Men were portrayed more on this pottery more than women.  Women were shown as servants or flute girls, and a select few included them as upper-class citizens in domestic settings. 


†††† Archaic Age works of pottery are still greatly admired and give us a look back into their time period, politically and socially.  Their content goes beyond that of realist art and delves into the very depths of Archaic Greek society.







    Archaic Greek sculpture, in the years from 700 B.C. to 500 B.C., underwent significant changes.  As mentioned in Ancient Greece:  A Political, Social, and Cultural History, at the beginning and middle of the Archaic period, Greek sculptures looked very similar to Egyptian sculptures.  Bodies were in a rigid stance with both arms down at the sides and one foot stepping forward. See Sounion Kouros at right. By the end of the archaic period around 500 B.C., sculptures began to show more defined features and become more life-like. See Aristodikos at left. What caused this change in style?  Also mentioned in Ancient Greece are the two types of sculpture:  the young, nude male called a kouros and the young, clothed female called a kore. Of course, later on in the Classical period of Greek art, females would become nude subjects as well.  What caused this difference in depiction between male and female subjects?


Image Source(s): , Aristodikos (left); Art/Archaic Free-Standing Sculpture/ , Sounion Kouros (right). Click on images for more info.


†††† First, a possible answer to the former question: what caused Greek sculpture to begin to become more realistic?  It is obvious that a sculpture from the sixth-century shows more muscle-definition than a sculpture from a century before.  One possibility for this change could be found in the new type of warfare that was emerging in the Archaic period.  Ancient Greece showed that the hoplite army was developing during this period.  Since the hoplite battles were quite physical it is easy to assume that muscular physiques were becoming an important commodity at this time.  Since being a hoplite soldier showed power and ranking, the muscular attributes of a soldier would be more idolized.  Artists found inspiration in this idolization and used it in their work.  This idealization also springs from the Homeric poems being composed at his time, also mentioned in Ancient Greece.  Artists, or perhaps the subjects they were sculpting, wanted to show the heroism that was so idealized at this time.  What better way to showcase the subject's heroism than to showcase him as a muscularly defined, realistic figure?

†††† Now, why were female figures in archaic sculpture clothed, while males were always shown in the nude?  A look at the social rankings of Greece at this time might hold the answer to this question.  The women in Greek society obviously did not have anywhere near the same rights as men.  Since women were sheltered from the outside world and led different lives from the men of the cities, the artist might have felt a barrier between him and his subject.  This "barrier" is expressed in the dress that was absent from sculptures of males at this time.  Since women were expected to stay in the home, men of the cities knew very little about the lives of women not in their own family. Sculptors, who were most certainly males at this time, might have felt that since women were not a real part of their everyday lives or the life of the government,  as mentioned in Ancient Greece, they could not paint the "real" woman (in this case is the nude woman). Their sculptures were a mirror of the barrier that existed in Archaic society.  This barrier would eventually, for whatever reason, be overcome in later centuries, but in the Archaic period, artists still felt too isolated from women to sculpt them in the nude.  

Image Source: , Peplos Kore. Click on image for more info.

Other pages from the C101 class web page project:

If your interested in Ancient Greece and want to learn more about other fascinating subjects relating to this time period then check out some of these exciting websites:

Madness and Logic in Antigone

This site shows how some of the characters in Antigone believed the actions of others to be mad and others to be logical.  It also shows how Antigone and Creon, in particular, acted quite mad at times in the play.  The site also has some interesting pictures of interpretations of Antigone and interesting links to sites about Sophocles and Antigone.

Interpretations of the Odyssey

This site takes some of the major themes and symbols of the Odyssey--immortality, the ideal woman, transition, the importance of Ithaca, and the ideal hero--and relate them to the Ancient Greek world.  The writers give some insight into what the Ancient World might have been like by taking clues from the Odyssey.

Violence and a Happy Ending (in the Odyssey)

This site contains four essays on the ďhappy endingĒ aspect of the Odyssey and violence at the end. They show some very interesting points that you perhaps would have not thought of in the Odyssey. This site is linked through several different pages that are well organized and easy to understand.

The Psychology of Penelope

This site is based of four parts that make-up the character of Penelope, in the Odyssey, as defined by the writers of the site. Itís divided into essays on Personality traits, Dreams, Rejection of Hope, and Cleverness. These essays are very detailed and give great references to quotes and scenes in the book.


At this site, get detailed information that deals with the first four books of The Odyssey.  Topics include revenge and faith, most notably the section entitled "Telemachus:  Shrewd Prince."  If you like writings that offer unexpected viewpoints and opinions on an issue, then this one's it.  Get a look at a really good vase painting in the red figure style.  Yeah!

Changing Sculptures in Classical Times

This site offers a look at the next big phase after Archaic art:the Classical period.  The pictures are great, and contrapposto figures take over from the kouroi.  If you want to see the evolutionary process of sculpture and the revolutionary styles emerging from them, check this out!

The Language of Love and Hate in Antigone

This web page would be useful for further information regarding Ancient Greek Culture.  It depicts some more Archaic Art of the famous writer Sophocles and his

The Parthenon: Athena's Ancient Home on Acropolis

Another useful site on Archaic Art includes the sculptures and paintings of Athena.It also has some detailed images and descriptions of ancient Greek architecture with the Parthenon.

Links to other Interesting Sites on Archaic Art :

For Photos of Archaic Greek Architecture and Sculpture visit, Greek Architecture: Pictures         

For a Digital Archive of Architecture visit, Greek Architecture

For Specific Diagrams of the different Architectural Styles visit, Details of Doric Architecture  and 

Details of Ionic Architecture

To find more information on Archaic Greek Art visit, Exploring the History of Art: Archaic Art

For photos and information on Greek Art and Architecture visit, Art and Architecture




            Harvey, Tracene F. "Archaic Greek Art". The Museum of Antiquities Collection. July 2002. 20 Nov 2002. <> Image(s) Included: "Rampin Head"

             Pomeroy, Sarah B., et. al., Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 1999.

            Osbourne, Robin.  Archaic and Classical Greek Art.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Image(s) included: Color Painting  

             "Greek Orders". Art 101: Lecture 6: Greek Art. 24 Nov 2002. < >

             "Greek Art and Architecture". Macmillian Encyclopedia. 2001. xrefer online. 17 Nov 2002. < >

             Sungirl. "Greek Architecture". 16 Mar 2000. online posting. 17 Nov 2002. <>

             Rhodes, Robin Frances. "Greek Art and Architecture". Architecture and Meaning on the Athenian Acropolis. July 1995. 17 Nov 2002. < >