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Visual Arts Paper

“Artist often refer or reference that which was gone before” Discuss the statement using the Renaissance artists and their interest in Classical and Hellenistic Greek concepts. The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century. “Renaissance” means “re-birth” and refers to the re-birth of classical styles of learning. Also the Renaissance period considered education particularly in the arts, like philosophy, architecture and the visual arts – in general ways of viewing the world as it truly was rather than as “The Church” dictated.

The Renaissance in Europe, the humanist aesthetic and the high technical standards of Greek art continued to inspire many generations of European artists. Looking further into the 19th century, the Classical traditions derived from the Classical and Hellenistic Greek periods have continued to dominate the art of the western world. The Classical period saw changes in the style and functions of sculpture. The poses become more naturalistic and the technical skill of these Greek sculptors increased. They were able to depict the human form in a variety of poses which were life like and real.

From about 500 BC, the statues began to depict real people. E. g. the statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton  displayed in Athens to mark the overthrow of the tyranny were said to be the first public monuments to actual people. The difficultly in creating an aesthetically real person and technical challenge stimulated much in the way of sculptural innovation during the Classical and Hellenistic Greek periods of history. Unfortunately, for us today, these works survive only in fragments, The Most famous examples surviving today are The Parthenon Marbles”, half of which are in the British Museum in England.

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In the Classical period there were many different sculptors who produced many lives like realistic works. Some of these artists or artisans include: Phidias which oversaw the design and building of the Parthenon. Praxiteles, another great Classical sculptor made the female nude respectable for the first time. This was in the later part of the Classical period in the mid-4th century BC. But the greatest works of the Classical period are considered to be the statue of Zeus at Olympia and the statue of Athena at the Parthenos. The whole point of the Renaissance is that Europeans particularly the Italians to begin with, were looking to the

Classical and Hellenistic Greek teachings and giving re-birth to their explorations. Renaissance artisans were looking back to a time of great knowledge, innovation and development. They reinvestigated the human form and true human proportion. Michelangelo produced a 5m tall “David” from a solid block of white marble. His work based on the biblical David from the Goliath story is truly amazing because of its considerable consideration of the audience perspective, its accurate proportion from this vantage point and the life like stance. David” was actually based on the Classical sculptures that depicted the Greek Adonis or beautiful male athlete of the original Olympic Games. The transition from the Classical to the Hellenistic periods occurred during the 4th century BC. Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, Here Greek art became more diverse and influenced by other cultures of people who were drawn into the Greek orbit. And in the view of some art historians, it also declined in quality and originality. Many of the sculptures previously considered as Classical masterpieces turned out to be of the later Hellenistic age.

The technical ability of the Hellenistic sculptor was clearly in evidence in such major works as the “Winged victory of Samothrace” and the “Pergamon Altar”. During this period, sculpture became more and more naturalistic. Common people, women, children, animals and domestic scenes became acceptable subjects for sculpture, which was commissioned by wealthy families for the adornment of their homes and gardens. These sculptors no longer felt obliged to depict people as ideals of beauty or physical perfection.

Hellenistic sculpture was also marked by an increase in scale, which culminated in the “Colossus of Rhodes” which was made during the late 3rd Century BC. People of the Renaissance were exploratory and innovative. To explore and invent the Renaissance people looked back to the knowledge, ideas and skills of the Classical Greeks and Hellenistic periods. Of course, the Renaissance developed into its own style because it was an interpretation of classical learning more than anything. Renaissance artists, writers and learners looked back to the Greeks for information and inspiration.

Many artworks of the time feature Greek deities and so on, even though people stopped believing in the long before. An example of this could be Botticelli’s Venus. Here although to us the scene is mythical Venus is again perfectly proportioned like Michelongelo’s “David”. Venus also has the same contrapposto stance which was originally developed during the Classical Greek period. This method of posing the subject gave the subject life because it illustrated a three dimensional idea which meant the subject looked like they were alive and moving through real space.

As has been illustrated Renaissance artists were definitely influenced by “that which had gone before”. They used “the Golden Mean” rules for human proportion, they used imagery from Greek legends and they revisited the contrapposto stance to give their subjects life. It is impossible for any artist of any period not to be influenced by that which has gone before because society is always looking back to improve the future. An artist’s practice cannot avoid being influenced by “that which has gone before”.

Rather than a period with definitive beginnings and endings and consistent content in between, the Renaissance can be seen as a movement of practices and ideas to which specific groups and identifiable persons variously responded in different times and places. They are influenced genuinely by the classical and Hellenistic part of Greek art. Shown through the artist of the renaissance, example Michelangelo which produced a 5m David. This would be in this network of diverse, sometimes converging, sometimes conflicting cultures that the Renaissance changed our imagination and our view of how we see our world for all time.

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