In our timeline, Classical Art spans the period 800 BC – 200 AD. It includes :
- Greek Art
- Roman Art
In a nutshell: Realism in art but enhanced for perfection – the biggest and best in life
The earliest forms of Greek Art were painted on wood panels and walls. Sadly, much of Greek decorative painting has been lost due to erosion or destruction. Most descriptions of Greek paintings are based on records created by the Romans (who greatly admired Greek Art). However, many examples of Greek art remain today in the form of painted decorations on ceramic pottery. This at least gives us some idea of styles and techniques used by the ancient Greeks.
Greek Art can be divided into three main categories:
• Archaic Period (650-480 BC)
• Classical Period (480-323 BCE)
• Hellenistic Period (c323-27 BCE).
The Greeks were particularly interested in idealism and their art reflects questions such as what is most beautiful? Who is most powerful? Who is most athletic? It often reflects their pride in their cities and combines beauty with practicality. Harmony, order and moderation are also characteristic of Greek Art.
In a nutshell: Realism – show things as they are
The Roman Art period starts around 500 BC. For several centuries, the Romans were the most successful nation on earth and as the Empire expanded, Roman ideas in engineering, warfare and architecture spread too. However, when the Romans invaded Greece, they were impressed by the Greek style art which they came across in the temples, public spaces and people’s houses. Despite the Roman’s innovative ideas being reflected in many areas of of Romain life, in art the Roman painters and sculptors preferred to build on designs and ideas from taken Greek art which they considered preferable to their own styles of fine art.
After the invasion of Greece, the Romans brought home Greek art which they obtain through both legitimate and illegitimate means. They also brought back Greek artist and sculptors (often as slaves) to Rome and instructed them to design and repair significant public buildings in the style of the Greek Art which they so admired..
The main difference between Greek and Roman art is that Romans where particularly interested in reality and much Roman Art focuses on figurative statues and portraits, many of which have survived to this day. In contrast, the Greeks favoured idealism, focusing on what they considered to be the biggest and best in life.
Despite the Roman’s love of Greek Art, it would be wrong to say that Roman Artists had no original ideas of their own. They were the pioneers of portrait busts and are renown for the introduction of landscape painting. Many great Roman works of art exist as a testament to their artistic abilities such as relief sculpture on monuments like Ara Pacis Augustae and Trajan’s Column.
Roman Painting Style
The Romans tended to use paintings as a form of decoration. Roman buildings tended to have large interior walls and paintings and murals were an ideal way to decorate the house. Their favoured techniques were mural paintings and mosaics of landscapes (see below) or mythological scenes. The colours used by Roman artists tended towards reds, yellow, greens, violets and black. Some of the best examples of Roman wall painting can be found in Pompeii.