Art is a much diversified field which relates to human exposure, perception, attitude, approach, observation and all human activities and experiences. It is all about aesthetics and is a very integral component in shaping society, culture, morals and values. Thus, Art is the language of the society and is a very important factor is keeping the culture and heritage alive of all nations. Art has been present throughout the ages and it has been categorized according to the demands of the time. The birth of art was the classical age by the Greeks and with the passage of time it has tremendously evolved resulting in great changes which has completely revolutionized contemporary art.
The theme of my essay is to discuss two periods of art and study the evolution from one period of art to another. Here I would like to discuss the ancient periods of art that is The Classical Age of Art and The Middle Ages of Art.
THE CLASSICAL AGE OF ART
After the defeat of the Persians the Greeks rose to power. Greece at that time was not just strong politically and economically but also had immense importance because of the rich culture it flaunted. Athens had strengthened itself and bought great changes in Greece that helped them pave their way as a united imperial. The concept of democracy also emerged in Greece and it is the first nation where the common man had the right to interfere in state politics. This was the first step by the Greeks to empower their people.
A nation which has political stability and an awakened nation are not just stable economically but also have great culture awareness. Art developed in Greece and saw great modifications. Tremendous changes have been observed in art from the archaic to the Hellenistic period of time. The changes in art were majorly because of the constantly changing ethical and moral values as well as the philosophical views and political changes which were being brought in each era.
Basically Greece is famous for its work of art especially in the area of sculptures. Since during that time the Greeks worshipped the Pantheons who had immense significance in their life. Sculptures of Gods and Goddesses were made so that they could be worshiped. Furthermore paintings of Greek gods also gained popularity. It has been observed that as these sculptures and paintings were depiction of the Gods and Goddesses thus there was promotion of nudity through such imagery. “Greek artists of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. attained a manner of representation that conveys a vitality of life as well as a sense of permanence, clarity, and harmony (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).”
The two main periods of this era are the archaic and Hellenistic era. Both these ages had separate characteristics which made them distinct from each other. The archaic era concentrated more on individualism. Attention was given on ways that could aid in making the piece of art stand out and be different from the rest. Ones perception was reflected in their art work. Issues of sex and sexuality were important areas of discussion and were freely discussed through art during this era for this they used sculpture as a way to express. Nude statues of young people and draped female statues were important characteristics of the archaic era. On the contrary the Hellenistic era was quite different from the archaic period. No importance was given on politics but ethics were of immense concern during this time. Artist of this time emerged out of individualism and now they concentrated on details so that they could exhibit a real and precise image. The most important topic of discussion during this era was the change in attitude of the male towards the females.
Basically in a nutshell art during the time was a representation of joy, freedom and celebration of the glory of mankind as a distinct creature. The diversity that is seen in the classical age is very important in shaping Greek art and the classical era.
THE MIDDLE AGES OF ART
The middle ages of art or the medieval age of art is the time in the history of Europe when they were going through one of the most difficult phase. This was majorly during the time of the decline of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. Europe was going through a very tough time as they were now going through a phase which was pushing them again back towards the dark ages. The basic characteristic of medieval art is that it was with a purpose to promote Christianity. In order to develop unity and cohesion the Europeans chose Christianity as a way to develop and strengthen the bond. Thus it is observed that art which belongs to the medieval age is usually seen in churches, monasteries etc. This period was also known as the dark ages and Byzantine art was the name that was given to the art of this era. Later the medieval era came which was associated to Renaissance art.
Basically the art during the middle ages can be characterized into 3 categories
Ø Romanesque art
Ø Byzantine art
Ø Gothic art
All these three eras that are associated to the middle age have their own distinct features.
Characteristics of Byzantine Art:
This form of art was merely done for religious purposes. Sculptures were forbidden as they were epitomes of idolatry. This art was merely one dimensional and had no perspective/ humans were usually painted front faced with little or no emotions having solemn faces.
Romanesque art was majorly targeted to religious art. These had no figures and the art was confined to mosaics, fresco’s, manuscripts which were found in churches. This form of art was quiet sober and subtle.
Gothic art is quite different from the form of art in the middle age as it focused on brighter colours and sculptures made of bronze were in again. The whole genre was now taking a step towards realism. Hence it will not be wrong to say that art was becoming more defined with picture space, symmetry, depiction of scenes, naturalism etc.
Hence in a nutshell the middle age was a very controversial period that faced numerous ups and downs when it came to art. Initially the art was quite focused on religion and was then used for decoration purposes of churches and monasteries. Later the art transformed and was now more realistic, bright, and symmetrical. Furthermore one of the most important thing that happened during the middle ages is that some of the most important artist of all times were discovered and gained popularity.
COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TWO AGES:
Ø The thing that was common during both the times was that Greek art initially prospered to honour Gods and Goddesses and in the same manner middle age art was focused on religion. It means that the focus was merely on religion and art was taken as a medium to convey the message.
Ø Hellenistic art was dealing with reality and ethics in the same way middle age art was also inspired by realism. Both the periods had a phase which precisely focused on realism and having reality behind the thoughts. Before that individualism was given importance but soon realism took over.
Ø Sculptures were very popular during classical age. On the contrary sculptures were disregarded because of them being a form of idolatry. When realism took over individualism sculptures during classical age gained immense hype because each and every proportion was given due attention to get an exact replica but later in medieval age it was considered against religion as sculptures propagated idolatry.
Ø The art of classical age was joyous, advocated freedom and celebrated humanity on the contrary middle age art was based on mosaics, fresco’s etc that decorated churches and had a serious purpose. Initially in classical age art was something that developed to honor beauty but with time in middle age it meant to cater a very divine and serious purpose that is to promote religion.
The image on left represents classical age. This is the Parthenon which was built for Athena the Greek goddess. This temple has sculptures and architecture which particularly represents the classical era. The image on right belongs to middle age that depicts a religious scene. This image is of a mosaic in a church namely Byzantine monumental Church. Such mosaics were a great achievement of that time as they were a source to promote and propagate religion. This mosaic was made in 12th century.
Analysis of art of classical and middle ages
The classical age referred to the history of art and cultural history which was the result of interlocking of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and centered on Mediterranean Sea. The art of classical period mainly represented the vitality of life along with sense of clarity, performance and harmony. It mainly started with the formation of realistic human and animal forms. During this period, Greeks devised many gods and goddesses which influenced antiquity as well as the art of the later periods (The Classical period: 5th - 4th century BC, 2012). On the other hand the art of middle ages was mainly a representation of Christianity and Christian thought. The church gained control over power and wealth. This resulted in ornamented and superfluously decorated church buildings. The middle age art was greatly dominated by the display of wealth and beauty. Along with this, it also represented the views of morality held by the middle age.
The art of classical age was further carried forward in the middle age. The middle age artists employed the ancient classical motifs and ornamentation in their art forms. They attired the classical figures with medieval age dresses and in medieval age surroundings. The middle age art forms borrowed the imagery from the classical age to show continuity between the classical age of art and the middle age. The crafted objects which were designed for religious use were a clear representation of the pagan classical age (Aberchrombie, n.d.).
INFLUENCE OF CLASSICAL AGE ON MIDDLE AGE
The influence of classical age of art on middle age was that the heritage of the classical era flourished in the middle age. Classical age was the time when art actually flourished hence great advancements was made during this time. After that during the middle age art actually gained tremendous popularity but had a divine purpose associated with it. Middle age adopted major aspects from the classical age only negating those which contradicted with religion. The architecture of temples during classical age incorporated sculptures and strong pillars etc. whereas in the middle age the architecture was far more refined with mosaics, fresco’s, painting in the architecture without the use of sculptures. This was the basic difference between the two ages in terms of architecture. During the middle age immense stress was given to acquire classical knowledge hence it will not be wrong to say that the middle age was inspired by the classical age and they incorporated classical art and furthermore lifestyle in their life. Hence the middle age took inspiration from classical age and then eventually resulted in its own form of art that was very popular in the world because it helped to spread religion in an aesthetic manner.