Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hellenistic Art

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The Hellenistic period began after the death of Alexander the Great in BC. After his death, the ruler’s empire was broken down into several different kingdoms. This fragmentation was symbolic of the diversity and multiplicity of artistic tendencies in the Hellenistic period. The main characteristic of Hellenistic painting, sculpture and architecture was exaggeration.

Art during this time expressed pain, suffering, anguish, ecstasy and other emotions. Athletic youths and Greek Mythological figures were favorite subjects.

The great art centers were no longer in mainland Greece but in the islands, such as Rhodes, and the cities in the eastern Mediterranean - Alexandria, Antioch, and Pergamon. The diversity in the artwork makes a general statement about the sculpture of the period being rather difficult.

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Art still played the role of being a religious function to glorify athletes. But, sculpture and painting were also used to decorate the homes of the rich. There was an interest, however, in humbler subjects. The human being was portrayed in every stage and walk of life. Small-scale statuettes often called Tanagra figurines, were produced and sold in shops for private ownership. These were an exception to the mythological themes. These statuettes represented everyday people and rarely do we find the monumental public sculpture qualities. Instead, most of the figures simply lean or walk, or sit, and the subjects are just everyday people, street beggars, entertainers, dancers, fashionable ladies, and gymnasts, among others.

Hellenistic sculpture’s main characteristic was exaggeration, so emotions were strongly expressed. Such emotions included pain, suffering, anguish, ecstasy, etc. An example would be, “The Dying Trumpeter,” the trumpeter in this sculpture expresses silent dignity and pain.

Aside from strong emotions, eroticism also gained popularity. These are shown in the statues of Aphrodite of Melos nas in sculptures of hermaphrodites. Hermaphrodites were believed to be persons with both the female and male characteristics and organs.

To conclude, Hellenistic art (painting, sculpture and architecture) was exaggerated, because of the fragmentation of Alexander’s empire into smaller kingdoms. The breakup triggered the artist(previously classic artist) to be more experimental, therefore having more emotions in the sculpture, painting and architecture.

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