Classical Art: A Contribution of Ancient Greece to Roman Art

Classical Art: A Contribution of Ancient Greece to Roman Art

Imagine that you are standing in a gallery that is devoted to the arts or, let’s say, the classical arts.

The entire place throws light on Greek and Roman culture, literature, and architecture.

The sculptures or paintings that you’re witnessing are classic, as they derive from the best.

Yes, I am talking about the famous Metropolitan Museum.

This museum holds over 30,000 masterpieces from the Greek and Roman eras.

But a question just ran through your mind about what inspired these arts to become classic in the first place?

What attracts people to pay attention to such art and make it popular?

mona lisa ad of reproduction

Why did artists from Leonardo da Vinci to Banksy produce classical works?

The answer is simple—in fact, just two words, elegance and balance in art!

Ancient Greco-Roman periods inspired the classical notion of creating accurate proportion and building harmony in art.

In this blog, you’ll acknowledge classical paintings from the Greek to Roman eras and the period that influenced the artist.

Sit back and enjoy the reading that takes you back to ancient times.

Overview of Classical Art

Before we start with the overview, let me enlighten you with classical art characteristics.

  • Moderate harmony
  • Idealization
  • Sense of proportion
  • And of course, the balance

Now that you know the characteristics of classical art, it will be easier to understand its meaning.

Over the span of 1200 years and more, ideal human beauty occupied the art subject.

We all know that the human anatomy is the most basic representational art in history.

Classical art always gives the appearance of a generalized, non-emotional idealistic human figure.

Greek and Roman sculpture art.
Image: Met Museum

Basically, it refers to artworks influenced by Greek and Roman culture.

Classical art was most popular during the Renaissance era because it depicted art from mythology.

The composition in classical art style was far more significant than the use of different colors.

Artist’s inspiration to portray the basic proportion of humans in the most realistic way.

The idea was to create balance and symmetry.

Greco-Roman classicism period developed monumental structures, from the invention of cement to domes to paintings.

It would be sad if we didn’t acknowledge those imperial pieces of work that could be pioneers of the arts.

Let’s enter our mini gallery, where I have explained classical artworks starting with Greece and finishing with the Roman Empire.

Suggested: 24 Facts About Renaissance

Contribution by Ancient Greek Era: Periods & Arts

Greek attic red figure Kalpis.
Image: The Collector

The classical art era started its journey in Greece.

If you know a little about ancient Greek times, then you must have a memory of how it began.

The Mycenaeans created the vase painting and developed a whole new golden concept.

The Greek era is a complete chapter with mesmerizing examples of classical art.

It consists of five classical art forms: architecture, painting, sculpture, pottery, and jewelry making. 

First, we will give a close look at the historical development of Greece and examine some of the spectacular contributions in classical art.

Also Read: Paintings of Cleopatra

Dark Ages (c. 1100–c. 800 B.C.E.) to Orientalizing Period (c. 700–600 B.C.E.)

The Mycenaean is considered to be the earliest style of art introduced in Greek culture.

The definition of classic art was first brought into existence through the beautiful paintings and styles of Greece.

This elite civilization bridged the coastal regions with their works.

Mycenaean people used to worship gods and warriors, which led to the main subject of classical art.

The tales of gods and heroic fighters continue to live on in Greek classical art forms.

King’s palaces were decorated with frescoes depicting gods and goddesses in vibrant colors.

Following the Mycenaean period, the Greeks of the Dark Ages visualized geometric art in vase painting.

Vase Painting

Vase painting that reflect classical art
Images: Met Museum, Wikimedia

The Mycenaean era is the roots of vase painting, which continues throughout the periods.

The vase painting symbolizes Ancient Greek, which focuses on depicting human figures in a realistic manner.

In the beginning, geometric patterns were adorned in the vase art.

However, the human figures captured the vase painting as their primary subject.

It became more oriental, depicting Eastern motifs.

Black figures introduction brought a detailed view of the vase.

Another style was brought into existence where the figures were shown in red with a black background.

Sooner, both styles became popular in vase painting culture.

Black Figure and Red Figure vase paintings.
Image: Met Museum, Britannica

This allowed people to paint in the finest details, resulting in colors and lines that added more meaning to the piece.

Archaic Period (600-480 BC)

Here is the first and most ancient period representing the Greek cultures.

The archaic period has notable sculptures and pieces from the time.

It is known as a large-scale marble kouros (male) and kore (female).

Sculptures representing male and female figures.
Image: KA Static

The left sculpture in the above image shows male youth, whereas the right sculpture depicts female youth.

You must be wondering why it is placed in such a way with emotionless expressions on their faces, right?

The main idea behind creating these sculptures to make grave markers during that period of time.

It represents the young male warriors who were martyred on the battle field.

With unabashed nudity and stiff body structure, it defines classical art.

These figures stand facing the viewer with the idealistic features of symmetry.

When you look towards the female figure, who is draped in fabrics with zero nudity, you get a feeling about why the female is covered but not the male.

It is believed that Kore was never nude.

Not only her draped body but also the ornaments define the majestic view.

The name given to the Kore was “Peplos Kore.” 

It was named after the costume, which is an ancient Greek attire.

There is a belief that Kores generally depicts the goddess Athena.

The Greek sculptures were highly inspired by the Egyptian figures.

Classical Period (480-323 BCE)

Classical sculpture came a bit before the Archaic period was over.

It was known as the golden age of the philosophy, science, art, and politics of the classical Greek period that influenced the Western and Roman Empires.

With the enormous increase in the growing society, personalized art became a classic for the Greek people.

The sculptures at funerals were extremely authentic, as if we were witnessing hyperrealism art.

Along with male nudes already celebrated in bronze, female nude figures also came into existence.

Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles
Image: Wikimedia

The above sculpture is “Aphrodite of Knidos” by Praxiteles.

This was the first female nude sculpture that caught the attention of the viewer.

Although archaic and classical art look similar, the one thing that distinguishes them both is contrapposto.

creation of adam reproduction

It basically means the curve position or asymmetrical balance, where the weight is shifted to a particular side.

Didn’t get me?

Look at the classical art below.

Doryphoros by Polykleitos (Spear-Bearer) or The Canon
Image: KA static

If you notice the work closely, it seems as if the entire weight is given to the front leg.

The sculpture describes a uniform proportion in art, which shows the rules of a perfect body.

For ancient Greek philosophers and artists, beauty and truth were closely related.

After the Classical period, the Hellenistic era took place in the history of Greek art.

Hellenistic Period (323-31 BC)

The Hellenistic period started soon after the death of Alexander the Great.

His death led to the separation of the Greek Empire into three states.

Greek culture was dying while the Hellenistic period was growing in Egyptian Alexandria and Syrian Antioch.

Lysippus became the official sculptor or, you can say, classical artist, following the death of Alexander the Great and crafted elegant bronze sculptures.

This marked the transition from Classical to Hellenistic styles.

Some of the best-known classical art pieces were created in the Hellenistic period.

It created art that illuminates realistic modeling and a high sense of drama.

The clear expressions of the figures, like joy or misery, invoked an emotional reaction in a formal style.

I mean, just observe the sculpture below.

Sculpture of Laocoön and His Sons.

This is the statue of Laicoon and His Sons, which was one of the greatest works of the Hellenistic era.

The figures in the artwork are life-size measuring over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in height.

The expressions of the figure give a perspective on the piece.

It makes the audience question why the figures have such facial expressions.

You know the best part about these works from the classical art time period?

They leave spaces to give viewers a wider perspective.

Sculpture of Laocoön and His Sons from different angles.

Do you see spaces in the above image?

It basically allows the sculpture to get a view from all sides and angles.

You can witness below some of the famous Hellenistic sculptures.

famous Hellenistic sculptures.
Images : Wikimedia

Contribution by the Roman Era: Periods & Arts

I will call the Roman period the second generation of the Greek era.


girl with pearl earring replica

This is because it spread its empire, where Roman art took an attribute from Egypt, the Etruscans, and, of course, Greece.

There is a myth that Romulus and Remus discovered Roman civilization which has a Greek heritage.

Roman civilization spanned almost 1000 years and became the most productive time of art.

It’s a fact that a good amount of Roman culture comes from Greece.

Many surviving Greek sculptures and marbles is copied from Roman artists.

Villa of the Mysteries. Pompeii
Image: Wikimedia

As we know, Greek artists carved their pieces in bronze instead of marble, and very few bronze originals are left.

The Romans learned extensively about Greek art history and uncovered the way to redo their pieces.

How about we take a look at some of the original Greco-Roman pieces?

Roman Republic (509 BCE-26 CE)

It all began when a group of noblemen elected the kings of the Roman Republic.

After the removal of the last king, Lucius Tarquinii Superbus, Rome became the Republic as a whole.

Following the expulsion of the kingship, the Roman Republic established a new governing system, which was led by two consuls.

There were many disputes between the governing upper class and the common people.

This situation inspired much architecture in early Rome.

They began to develop concrete architecture.

We already know that many Greek cultures and their techniques were adopted by the Romans.

Numerous Greek sculptures were displayed in Roman homes, public places, and palaces based on their aesthetic appearances.

Vitruvius is one of the most famous Roman architects and engineers.

He wrote “Ten Books of Architecture,” which is among the records of architectural theory and practices.

In short, the book reveals the qualities needed to build any kind of structure that is made up of stability, beauty, and unity.

If you remember famous paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, then you must be aware of “Vitruvian Man (1490).”

Vitruvian Man (1490)
Image: Art In Context

It was a perfect example describing the accurate proportions of human form.

It shows the exact position and measurements of a human figure in full circle and square.

Imperial Roman Empire (27 BCE-393 CE)

Augustus’s came to power and that was the end of the Roman Republic with the beginning of new imperial rule.

This was also meant to indicate shifts in leadership.

The periods were named after individual rulers, which are:

  • Augustan (27 B.C.E.–14 C.E.)
  • Julio-Claudian (14–68 C.E.)
  • Flavian (69–98 C.E.)
  • Trajanic (98–117 C.E.)
  • Hadrianic (117–38 C.E.)
  • Antonine (138–93 C.E.)
  • Severan (193–235 C.E.)
  • Soldier Emperor (235–84 C.E.)
  • Tetrarchic (284–312 C.E.)
  • Constantinian (307–37 C.E.)

Imperial was a point when classical art was brought into existence again.

Classicizing elements through smooth lines, elegant draping, highly naturalistic forms, balanced proportions, and nude bodies.

Imperial art often concentrated on classical art history.

The portrayal was accurate through each shape in art.

The Augustus of Primaportawas made when Augustus life had reached an end.

Still, the sculpture shows a youthful, idealized, and handsome Augustus, which is incredible as classic art.

Now tell me which period stole your heart with their amazing sculptures and paintings?

Well, if I say that you can now own classic art, then how will you feel?

It’s true; at PortraitFlip, you get to customize the art the way you want it to be. What are you waiting for? Get a replica of the finest classical artwork at the most affordable price.

To Conclude

You witnessed the classical arts and the period that contributed to the art on a huge scale.

As an audience, you know the classic version that makes the pieces fall into the classical art category.

The roots of classicism evolve from producing aesthetically pleasing structures.

It created an impact on modern Western culture.

From the Italian Renaissance to Neoclassicism, art has surprised its admirers in many ways.

You can look into some of the Neoclassical paintings, which are revival art from Rome and Greece.

Hi From Writer

How was the small tour about classical art?

Interesting? Did you enjoy the read and gain some new information?

Now enlighten me with your perspective by mentioning it in the comments below.

You can even write to me via comments if you have any suggestions to make or questions to ask.

I’ll be keen to hear a new point of view.

I’ll soon be back with new material; till then, keep reading!


What are the principles of classical art?

The principles of classical art are unity, equilibrium, duality, and proportion.

What are the three types of classical art?

Classical art is divided into Renaissance art, Neoclassicism, and Baroque style.

What does the term classic mean?

The term classicism describes art referring to Greek and Roman styles.

Why is classical art important?

Classical art is important because it has a universal meaning that is appreciated by everyone without specialized artistic skills.

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