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Art History Paper

Categories: Art History

Define the transformations that have taken place between the sculpture of the late archaic period and that of the early Classical period. Note how these imply a change in relationship of the viewer to the work of art.

Throughout history, sculptures have developed significantly. The Western tradition of sculptures began in Ancient Greece along with Egypt and many other ancient civilizations around the world. Greece is widely seen as producing great masterpieces in the archaic period and as time evolved into the classical period more detailed and sensible artwork developed.

During the archaic period (c.660-480 B.C.) sculpture emerged as a principal form of artistic expression. The beginning of this period marks posh and elegant statues of nude walking youths, the Kouroi, which suggest Egyptian prototypes but which are distinctive in stylization and force of movement. These sculptures were luxurious and prominent during this period of time. In the early classical, or transitional, period (c.480-450 B.C.) a new humanism started to find its artistic expression in terms of a perfect balance between authenticity and abstraction of form.

By humanism I mean, a new culture of work developed. This work of art brought forward a greater amount of human qualities. For example, The Anavysos Kouros sculpture from century 540 – 515 B.C. and Kritios Boy from century 480 B.C. These two sculptures convey drastically different messages to the viewer while still portraying similar representations. The Kroisos Kouros is a statue of an Athenian solider that functioned as a grave marker, located in Anavysos in Attica.

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The marble Kritios Boy belongs to the Early Classical period of ancient Greek sculpture. Two similar sculptures can portray extremely different messages to the viewer by the sculptures body language and the amount of detail put into the sculpture. The way the sculpture is portrayed can impact the viewer’s emotion toward the selected art.

The sculpture of Anavysos Kouros during century 540 – 515 B.C. was constructed with an inorganic semblance. The Anavysos Kouros is thought to represent the ideal image of a person rather than an actual portrayal of what Kroisos looked like. This makes Anavysos Kouros understood to be as an abstract figure due to the fact that it’s related to the function of a statue while still representing a hero of Greek culture. The pose of the Kouros, a clear and simple formula, derives from Egyptian art and was used by Greek sculptors for more than a hundred years. The formula consists of the statue frontal fixed with the left food leading slightly. His arms are held next to the body, and the fists are grasped with the thumbs forward. The Greek sculptor rendered the human body in a far more naturalistic manner.

For example, the head is no longer too large for the body, and the face is more rounded, with puffy cheeks replacing the flat planes of the earlier work. The long hair does not form an inflexible backdrop to the head but falls naturally over the back. His knees are locked, hips are in axis with shoulders which convey that they body’s muscles are independent from the body’s movement. This statue for example is frozen in time. Rounded hips replace the V-shaped ridges of the earlier work. Anavysos Kouros is extremely stiff even though the statue is free from a block that some statues are attached to from behind. Statues like this replaced the large vases of Geometric times as the favored form of grave marker in the sixth century BCE.

This Greek statue from the archaic period, Anavysos Kouros, is produced in frontal view, which is common in regard to this period. Typical Archaic sculptures are produced to be very frontal and have the archaic smile on its face. Anavysos Kouros has both of these descriptions. The art work’s body language would portray the sculpture to convey no emotion but with the archaic smile represented on it’s face the viewer may become confused due to the inconsistent body language. The body looks as if it is very light but still has extremely large muscles that are tensed which also back up the argument that it’s unnatural. The statue should be in motion due to the one leg in front of the other but the statue is portrayed as frozen which makes it extremely mechanical.

On the other hand, the Kritios Boy Statue from century 480 B.C. is much more organic with a more fluid body stance. Never before had a sculptor been concerned with depicting how a human being, as opposed to a stone image, actually stands. Real people do not stand in the stiff form of the kouroi and korai. Humans shift their weight and the region of the main body parts around the vertical but flexible axis of the spine. The muscular and skeletal structures are depicted with freely lifelike accuracy, with the rib cage naturally expanded as if in the act of breathing, with a collected and calm demeanor and hips, which are distinctly narrower. The artist of this image was the first to grasp this fact and represent it in statuary. The head also turns slightly to the right and tilts, breaking the unwritten rule of frontality dictating the form of virtually all-earlier statues.

As a final forebear of the classical period, the “smile” of archaic statues has been completely replaced by the accurate delivery of the lips and the formal expression that characterized the transitional austere style. The function of this statue is to recognize accomplishment not from a specific person but represents the ideal type. This statue shows contrapposto with his knee popped and bent showing some type of motion, which is the introduction of weight shift in a statue. Contrapposto separates Classical from Archaic Greek statuary. Kritios Boy’s muscles work interdependently with the axis of his body, he looks as if he is in motion due to the muscles being engaged, as there is a potential of movement.

After comparing both artworks in the archaic time period and the classical, most viewers are likely to be able to connect with the classical artwork rather than early time periods’. People today show favoritism to sculptures that resemble the human body and it’s characteristics. Kritios Boy shows more humanistic concepts than the sculpture of Anavysos Kouros. The sculpture’s time period changes the relationship of the sculpture to the viewer. Viewers make emotional connections with statues due to their body language. Kritios Boy has interdependent muscles and is more matter-of-fact. Transformations of a sculpture and time periods have a great deal of impact on the viewer.

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Art History Paper. (2016, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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