Classicism – Classification of Classic Art

Classical art can be somed up as the following: “Aesthetic attitudes and principles based on the culture, art and literature of ancient Greece and Rome, and characterized by emphasis on form, simplicity, proportion, and restrained emotion.”
Place and time period

Classical art occurred in ancient Greece during 480-323BC – just after the beginning of democracy and the end of the Persian war. Obviously not a lot of artwork can be produced during a time of conflict therefore the end of a war symbolized a fresh

opportunity for art expression. Similarly Democracy also had a great impact on this art period due to the fact that it created a richer availability of resources to the people; meaning artwork could be produced more generously and frequently as apposed to earlier times.

Types of Artwork Produced
Sculptures, friezes, pottery and arcitechture were the main artworks produced during the classic art movement.

The ancient Greeks interest in bodily precision and human success led them to expand a great interest in depicting the “perfect” human figure in art. Their ideals of the model human body are made fairly obvious throughout their sculptures.

The detail, proportion and natural movement in these figures reflect the ancient Greeks developed understanding of the human anatomy. It is clear when observing sculptures from the Archaic art phase (when sculptures where rigid and juvenile) that the artists of the classic period had adopted a more peaceful and natural contropposto pose (weight on one side) for standing figures. Another dramatic advancement to be noted is their remarkable techniques of carving drapery, evidently being more realistic than ever before. Developed great technical skills, their ideals of true beauty held back the potential of achieving the techniques used to portray authentic emotion and feeling.

This was later achieved in the Hellenistic art phase. A time when Alexander the Great’s conquests initiated several centuries of exchange between Greek, Central Asian and Indian cultures, resulting in a great international variety of art, and eventually leading to brutal realism which included: old age- as well as youth, unnatractiveness, fear, pain, rape…Alongside many other significant changes such as: women’s bodies being considered appropriate to sculpt nude, and the developed techniques of carving group figures.


“Ancient Greek life was dominated by religion and so it is not surprising that the temples of ancient Greece were the biggest and most beautiful.They also had a political purpose as they were often built to celebrate civic power and pride, or offer thanksgiving to a supporting god/goddess of a city -for success in war”

The Greeks developed three architectural systems, called orders, each with their own clear proportions and detailing. The Greek orders are: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

The Doric style is rather sturdy and its top (the capital), is plain. This style was used in mainland Greece and the colonies in southern Italy and Sicily. Ionic

The Ionic style is thinner and more elegant. Its capital is decorated with a scroll-like design (a volute). This style was found in eastern Greece and the islands. Corinthian

The Corinthian style is seldom used in the Greek world, but often seen on Roman temples. Its capital is very elaborate and decorated with acanthus leaves

One of the most famous architectures of ancient Greece is the Parthenon- a temple located on the Acropolis, a hill overlooking the city of Athens; it remains devoted to the great Greek goddess Athena, the patron goddess of the ancient City of Athens. The Parthenon is considered to be the finest example of Doric-style construction.

The Parthenon was designed by Phidias, a famous sculptor, at the request of Pericles, a Greek politician credited with the founding of the city of Athens.


Freizes of the classic art period carry the same characteristics of classic sculpture, yet of course lack the oppurtunity of 3d observation and interpritation.

One of the most intimate and affecting remains of the Ancient Greece are their Funeral friezes. Funeral friezes evolved during this period from the rigid and impersonal kouros of the Archaic period to the highly personal family groups of the Classical period. Although some of them depict “ideal” types ie.the mourning mother and the dutiful son- r as time pogressed, they increasingly depicted real people.

In ancient Greece Pottery was designed for particular uses and purposes eg. Amphora’s- used for storing oil, wine or water. Stamina’s- used for storing funery ashes, liquids, and offerings to gods.

Archaic and Classic pottery was painted using clay strips (diluted solutions of clay). For the period of classicism, the majority of clay originated from Attica, a place near Athens, which contained a high iron content, it was this that is accountable for the potteries rich, reddish brownish colour. During this period, direct painting was used rather than incision-, which had been used in Archaic times. Direct painting offered new expressive possibilities to artists such as three-quarter profiles, greater anatomical detail and the representation of perspective.

It’s important to note the following paint distinctions of pottery whilst determining which art period it originated from.
• Archaic=Black figure painting
• Classic=Red Figure painting
• Hellenistic=White ground painting

Paintings aren’t merely decorative, they also hold stories of: war, everyday life episodes or even Greek myths and legends. An example of this is illustrated above within the classic style vase. It shows Priam, the king of Troy, asking Achilles to return the body of his dead son Hector.

Classic Art Influences
Romans filled their environment with original works of classic Greek art, which included reproductions, or variants of those works. Knowledge of this classic Greek art and architecture passed to later Europeans by way of Rome, by doing so, also influencing the art period of the Middle Ages.
A detailed and specific example of this would include that “around 1337 Italian sculptor Andrea Pisano portrayed a Gothic artist carving a classic-style nude in a relief called The Art of Sculpture for the bell tower of the Florence Cathedral in Italy”.

The Renaissance was a period during which both the artistic forms and the ideals of Classical art remains were revived and renewed. It began in Italy around the 1400’s, spread north, and continued until about the 1600’s. It was mainly Roman copies of Greek sculpture and architecture, rather than the original Greek works, that renaissance artists sought to copy.

Indirect classical art influences of today include the desire to look somewhat like gods, or in this current age- a celebrity or perhaps a model who carry the 21st century ideals of a perfect human body. These unrealistic standards have caused much unacceptance amongst those of us who “compare” and push ourselves to fit this image often causing serious mental/health problems i.e. Eating disorders, depression… which remain still today a great problem within our society.