color in Greek art

Isaac Kremer/ March 1, 2021/ / 0 comments

Architecture under a Mediterranean sun tends to simple, clear, bright forms, with color in detail, not mass. On Greek architecture the coloring of details in the upper works of buildings could have done little more than help articulate the sharply carved forms. Only in the clay revetments of Archaic roofs does there seem to have been a positive riot of color. On sculpture it seems that color was used to lend verisimilitude, but we know too little about how intense the colors were when applied. Neo-classical versions of Greek statues, with color supplied, are disturbing, and we have become so used to judging form without color that it is distracting. The few colored marbles left from antiquity, as at Pompeii, look like rather crude dolls. There seems no indication of colored outer walls for buildings, and for any painting on interior -walls, figural or decorative, we have no evidence. New discoveries could dramatically change our view. Scraps of painted plaster show that the seventh-century temple of Poseidon at Isthmia near Corinth had somewhere upon it large (though not life-size) figures of animals. We may, then, underestimate the value of color in Greek art, but in their language they are strangely vague in defining colors, their jewelry long abjured settings of colored stones, and the modest use of dark stone in architecture is in marked contrast with Rome’s addiction to variegated marbles. Their vase-painting evolved from four-color black-figure to two-color red-figure, while their most famous Classical painters were said (as seems true, to judge from near contemporary mosaics) to have worked in four colors only.

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About Isaac Kremer

Isaac Kremer is a transformational leader with a track record of success revitalizing downtowns in the United States. He has written and spoken extensively. He's always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas to unlock the potential of downtown areas.

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