Hellenistic Art

After the death (323 BC) of Alexander the Great, his extensive empire was dissolved into many different kingdoms. This fragmentation was symbolic of the diversity and multiplicity of artistic tendencies in the Hellenistic period.

The great art centers were no longer in mainland Greece but in the islands, such as Rhodes, and the cities in the eastern Mediterranean--Alexandria, Antioch, and Pergamon. Sculpture The variety of artistic directions makes a general statement about the sculpture of the period rather difficult. There was a tendency toward classicism, but also another toward the baroque or even the rococo; a tendency toward idealization, but also a tendency toward realism. The Hellenistic period was, above all, a period of eclecticism. Art still served a religious function or to glorify athletes, but sculpture and painting were also used to decorate the homes of the rich. There was an interest in heroic portraits and in colossal groups, but also in humbler subjects. The human being was portrayed in every stage and walk of life; there was even an interest in caricature. The awareness of space that characterized architecture also began to emerge in sculpture and painting. As a result landscapes and interiors appeared for the first time in both reliefs and painted panels.

The great Altar of Zeus from Pergamum (c.180 BC; State Museum, East Berlin), created by Greek artists for King Eumenes II, was enclosed by a high podium decorated with a monumental frieze of the battle between the gods and giants. Many Hellenistic tendencies were realized in this work. The basis for its iconography was firmly rooted in classical tradition. The baroque style of the sculpture was characteristic of the time in its exaggeration of movement, physical pain, and emotion, all set against a background of swirling draperies. Painting Some of the painting of the time has been preserved, mainly in chamber tombs with painted facades and interiors.

Other examples were echoed in Roman copies and in adaptations of the originals from Rome and Pompeii, or they survived in MOSAICS, which were already being produced in the classical period and reached their highest point in Pella and Delos during the Hellenistic period. Anastasia Dinsmoor

Bibliography: Berve, Helmut, and Gruben, Gottfried, Greek Temples, Theatres and Shrines (1963); Boardman, John, et al., The Art and Architecture of Ancient Greece (1967);Boardman, John, et al., The Art and Architecture of Ancient Greece (1967); Brilliant, Richard, Arts of the Ancient Greeks (1973); Charbonneaux, Jean, et al., Archaic Greek Art: 620-480 BC (1971); Havelock, Christine M., Hellenistic Art (1981); Hurwit, Jeffrey M., The Art and Culture of Early Greece, 1100-480 BC (1985); Lullies, Reinhard, and Hirmer, Max, Greek Sculpture, trans. by Michael Bullock, 2d ed. (1960); Pollitt, J. J., Art and Experience in Classical Greece (1972), Art in the Hellenistic Age (1986), and The Art of Ancient Greece (1990); Richter, Gisela M. A., A Handbook of Greek Art, 9th ed. (1987) and Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, 4th ed. (1970); Robertson, C. M., A History of Greek Art, 2 vols. (1975); Stewart, Andrew, ed., Greek Sculpture, 2 vols. (1990); Webster, Thomas B., The Art of Greece: The Age of Hellenism (1966); Woodford, Susan, An Introduction to Greek Art (1986).

web design by J.J.Popovic.