Transitional Greek

480 BC - 450 BC

The trend toward realism in the depiction of human and animal figures quickened in the brief Transitional period. The rendering of the human body, drapery, and expression is more detailed than is apparent in the Archaic period, but has not yet reached a stage of full-blown naturalism. This period also saw a rise in the construction of elaborate temples adorned with pediments and friezes of bas relief (two-dimensional) sculptures.

“Severe” is the label sometimes attached to Transitional Greek art. In fact, this early naturalism has an air of restraint that has nothing to do with severity. The more lifelike anatomy of statues and foreshortening of reliefs actually constituted a major stylistic shift. The artistic changes of this period eventually gave rise to the striking naturalism of the Hellenistic period.

The pottery painting styles of the sixth century BC, such as red- and black-figure, continued into the Transitional period, though black-figure began to fade out. White-ground pottery, painted fluidly in black and ochre pigments and detailed with fine lines, was a new product of the fifth century.