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Greek Humanism

Moving forward in chronological time, we find ourselves at the doorstep of the Greek civilization.  An unmistakable sensibility begins to make itself known to our vision as our gaze begins to  compare/contrast the works of ancient artists.  There, in the Greek mindset,  is the presence of humanism fixed into visible form.  The German philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, expressed the presence of this new element in ancient art as follows:  “What was the process by which these incomparable artists (the Greeks) evolved from the human body the circle of their godlike shapes, a perfect circle from which not one essential, incidental or transitional feature was lacking?  My instinct tells me that they followed the same laws as Nature…But there is something else involved as well which I would not know how to express.”  What additional element do you think Goethe was trying to describe as he turned his gaze toward Greek art from the ancient past?  What are your thoughts on the Greek infusion of a new sensibility in art?

Apollo Belvedere, 5th Century BC

The Constancy of Design in Ancient Egyptian Art

Ann Hession offered the following observation regarding the constancy of design in Ancient Egyptian art:   “Ancient Egyptian figures, especially of gods and pharaohs, are noticeable for their very formal, even rigid stance and posture, but their faces are always serene, regardless of the scene in which they are depicted. There were very strict rules about how a god or pharaoh could be represented, which even included a prohibition against anything being drawn in front of the face or body of the pharaoh, even when the scene depicted clearly required it for any kind of realism. Realism was simply not a goal of ancient Egyptian Art. It is these very formal and stylized rules that have made Egyptian Art one of the most widely recognized forms of art in the world.”   What are your initial thoughts or ideas about the rigidity of aesthetic parameters for artists commissioned to portray the pharaoh in Ancient Egyptian art?

Tomb of Seti I (interior view)

Welcome to Art 260 Survey of Art History I for Summer 2011 Session II


We will begin our assessment of the history of ideas fixed into visible form by looking closely at the images made by our ancestors.  First question to consider:  What do you want your artists to be?  Your thoughts?