Archaic Greek

750 BC - 480 BC

During the Archaic period, Greek society had already sufficiently evolved along its own lines to create, through learned lessons and skills, a congruous art. An effort to achieve likeness in rendering the human figure is already apparent in the freestanding votive sculptures of young men, or kouroi. A glance at its Egyptian stylistic counterpart, the pharaoh, makes clear the kouros’ debt to, as well as departure from, this predecessor. The “archaic smile,” outstretched palm, clenched fist, and wooden posture of a striding figure are all stylistic devices.

The pottery painting styles generally corresponding to this period (1200-500 BC) differ greatly from the sculptural art mentioned above. Proto-Geometric painting, dating from the twelfth century, is characterized by austerity and precision with concentric circles and black areas. Geometric painting succeeded at the close of the tenth century and is characterized by zig-zag and meander patterns painted horizontally. In the late eighth century, due to influence from the east, floral and animal patterns, as well as increasingly naturalistic human forms (conciding with the development of Archaic sculpture) were introduced. By 600 BC, Black-Figure painting was predominant; by 530 BC, Red-Figure was the prevalent style.