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3 Tutorials that teach Vase Painting
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Vase Painting

Vase Painting

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore different types of Greek vase painting

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Tutorial

An introduction and overview of ancient Greek vase painting.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. And welcome to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about ancient Greek vase painting.

As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, identify types of Greek vase painting based on stylistic elements, and compare and contrast types of Greek vase painting.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is geometric-- a type of Greek vase painting characterized by an emphasis on geometric shapes. Orientalizing is a style Greek ceramic painting influenced by the ancient near east and characterized by floral and animal motifs.

Archaic-- period of Greek art that literally means old fashioned and refers to depictions of the human figure from this period that are stiff and unnatural in appearance. Black figure is a type of ancient Greek ceramic painting involving painting black figures on a red background. And red figure is a type of ancient Greek ceramic painting involving painting red figures on a black background.

The big idea for today is that decorative vases from ancient Greece are important examples of the blending of artistic form with function. And there are required artworks today. And those are listed in purple.

So the period of time that we're looking at today begins around 900 BC and ends around 480 BC. It includes decorative vases and the Archaic period. Quick geography lesson-- we're looking at the lands of ancient Greece today as well as the city-state of Corinth just a bit southwest of Athens and very close to Mycenae.

So let's jump right into it. We'll begin with the geometric style of vase painting, which lasted from about 900 to 700 BC. The geometric style-- as its name implies-- is rendered using geometric patterns and shapes such as lines, diamonds, zigzags, and cross-hatching. Now, this particular vase is an example of a funerary vase from Dipylon Cemetery. It's a large piece-- about 3' 4" tall-- so much too large for use as a drinking vessel or liquid storage vessel. It was meant as a decorative piece to adorn the grave site of someone interred at the Dipylon Cemetery in Athens.

So this vase is ceramic. It was created around 740 BC and depicts the cremation of someone important, probably the person-- or perhaps, I should say-- the person for whom the vase was made. Now, the artist is a master from the Dipylon workshop in Athens who made vases for those people residing in the Dipylon Cemetery.

The geometric style fell out of favor around 700 BC and with the rise of a new style called orientalizing that began in the training hub of Corinth, a city in Greece. Now undoubtedly, the wealth of exposure to foreign taste that were traveling-- from foreigners that were travelling in and out of the city-- helped to influence the designs of these vases, which were characteristic of more open compositions as opposed to the limited open space in geometric designs. And animal, human, and floral motifs were the most common design elements.

This style lasted for about 100 years and ended around 600 BC. Now, this particular example is of an Olpe or Olpe from Corinth, created around 600 BC. The ceramic vase is an example of a container for holding liquids-- most likely wine, possibly water. And it is analogous to a pitcher. So some of the functional elements include the attachment of a handle, as well as the wide-mouth rim to help with pouring.

Now, this black figure amphora, which is a vessel used for holding liquids or dry goods-- but usually wine. It depicts the mythical figures of Ajax and Achilles playing a game of dice, likely during the Trojan War-- hopefully not during the particular battle but-- It was created by the artist Exekias between 540 and 530 BC. Decorative vases are some of the first examples of artwork where the artist has been indicated by name, which suggests that the Greeks' viewed these as true pieces of art.

Finally, this is an example of a kylix, or drinking cup. And we're looking at it from the top down so that we can see the bottom, inside of the cup. And it's an example of red figures on black. And it depicts a procession of wine-drinking men and was created around 480 BC and is attributed to the artist known as the Triptolemus Painter.

All right. So let's take a look at our objectives again and see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you identify types of Greek vase painting based on stylistic elements? Can you compare and contrast types of Greek vase painting? The big idea for today is that decorative vases from ancient Greece are important examples of the blending of artistic form and function.

There you go-- short lesson. Hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for joining me. And I'll see you next time.

Citations

Image of Geometric Krater from the Dipylon Cemetery, Creative Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WLA_metmuseum_Krater_Hirschfeld_Workshop.jpg; Image of Olpe from Corinth, Public Domain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Olpe_sphinx_Louvre_Cp10475.jpg Image of Amphora with Ajax and Achilles, Public Domain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Akhilleus_Aias_MGEt_16757.jpg; Image of Kylix with Procession of Male Couples, Public Domain, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cup_Apatouria_Louvre_G138.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Geometric

    A style of Greek vase painting, characterized by an emphasis on geometric shapes.

  • Orientalizing

    A style of Greek ceramic painting influenced by the ancient near east and characterized by floral and animal motifs.

  • Archaic

    Period of Greek art, it literally means “old-fashioned” and refers to depictions of the human figure from this period that are stiff and unnatural in appearance.

  • Black Figure

    A type of ancient Greek ceramic painting involving painting black figures on a red background.

  • Red Figure

    A type of ancient Greek ceramic painting involving painting red figures on a black background.