Name Date Period Greek Pottery and Vase Painting Notes

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Greek Pottery and Vase Painting Notes



(for mixing wine and water)




(for storing liquids)



(water pitcher)

ancient greek pottery art



(oil jar)



Kylix (used to hold cosmetics)

(drinking cup)

Handout: Greek Vase Painting An Introduction Unit 1: Contemporary Uses in Ceramics

by Dietrich Von Bothmer Based on Historical Themes

Curator of Greek and Roman Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Lesson 2: Greek Amphorae

- What distinguishes Greek vases from all other decorated

pottery is that their decoration, both in content and technique

-Painted Greek vases are known from the second millennium B.C. until almost the end of the first century B.C.,

-In the beginning many local styles flourished, but by the

middle of the sixth century B.C. the vases of Attica and its capital Athens had exceeded in quantity and quality those of their nearest rival Corinth

-The earliest Greek vases are painted primarily with simple ornamental designs, and in shape and decoration hardly differ from pottery produced in other parts of the world.

-some attempts at telling a story already appear in Mycenaean vases of the late Bronze Age, although pure ornament is still the prevailing element and vases with human subjects are a distinct minority

-The succeeding style is known as "geometric" and, as the name implies, the strict, orderly patterns are drawn with either a compass or a ruler

-human figures reappear, in the eighth century B.C., they are still subordinated to an overall design that is chiefly abstract

-The next phase of vase painting coincides with what is called the Orientalizing period of Greek art: contact with the Near East opened Greek eyes to the Orient with its long tradition of floral ornaments, exotic beasts, and weird monsters.

-It is during this orientalizing period, however, that a decisive innovation was made in Corinth: the establishment of the black-figure technique. This meant a return to silhouettes, but now enlivened and articulated with incised lines and two additional ceramic colors, red and white.


Handout: Greek Vase Painting An Introduction Unit 1: Contemporary Uses in Ceramics

by Dietrich Von Bothmer Based on Historical Themes

Curator of Greek and Roman Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Lesson 2: Greek Amphorae

-Athens, where, from the very beginning, the skill demanded by the engraved lines encouraged artists to develop personal styles. It is, therefore, from the late seventh century on that style becomes the property of the artist instead of being merely a general fashion.

-signatures now begin to appear, and even unsigned vases

can be attributed to individual painters with some assurance of accuracy

-Most of the scenes on geometric works that portray human figures occur on vases used as grave monuments, and depict subjects related to the burial: the lying in state with mourners or funeral processions

-scenes represented are known to us from Greek literature, especially the early epics, but the artists appear to have been quite selective in what they show and how they tell a story

-The great masters ofAttic black-figure - Sophilos, Kleitias, Nearchos, Lydos, the Amasis Painter, and Exekias

-growing emphasis on human interpretations as opposed to

hieratic formalism is one of the many accomplishments of the great black-figure


-The limitations of the black-figure technique, particularly the unrealistic color scheme, began to hinder artists who strove for ever richer and more varied representations.

About 530-525 B.C. a new technique is introduced, which is called red-figure.


-Now the figures are left the color of the clay (and hence turn red when

the vase is fired) ; details are in fine line drawn in black glaze

-The entire background - the space between and around the figures - is

now painted black. Most black-figure scenes look like sun-drenched open spaces in which figures are silhouetted, as if seen against the light

-Red-figure, by contrast produces the theatrical lighting, with each performer bathed in his own spotlight.

-The benefit of red-figure; details are noticed from a distance, the negative space is painted black creating emphasis on the pot itself.

-changes in the next generation of painters; Euphronios, Euthymides, and Phintias; instead, the old subjects are treated in new compositions, as if they had never been painted before, and new subjects are painted with confidence

-Each of the three artists goes his own way and has a signature style even though not all their works bear a signature; contributes a solid chapter to Attic vase painting, but it is clear that they looked at each others' work and learned from one another

-The next phase of Attic red-figure opens with the Berlin Painter and the Kleophrades

Painter; decorative principles through which the heavy borders that had framed scenes are lightened or altogether abandoned, and most compositions are reduced to just a few or even single figures.

-The beginnings of this trend can be detected in late works by Euphronios,

-The vase painters during this period begin to develop their own personal styles and techniques

-beginning in the second quarter of the fifth century, vase paintings suddenly include new types of compositions and a curious preference for certain mythological subjects. In the early classic period, many favorite scenes begin to disappear, and more and more of the vase painters seem to be competing not among themselves but with the famous painters of their day.

-As the archaic restraint gives way to the greater freedom of the classic period, the artists over embellish and over decorate their vases and size of their pots.

-white slip was incorporated

- innovations in draughtsmanship: the human body is now shown in every conceivable pose and position, with much foreshortening and with a great many three-quarter views. Drapery folds lose their starched rigidity and hug the contours of the body. There is also some

shading to show the hollow of a fold, the convexity of a shield, or the roundness of

an object, but the figures remain evenly lit and cast no shadows

-omeni n all their occupationsp redominate

and are always shown as ladies, even when being abducted

-Toward the very end of the fourth and the beginning of the third century, red figure

comes to a complete halt, although black figure,or the simpler form of silhouette decoration had never entirely ceased and lingers on

-Now, for the first time, we have the full palette of the painter

-antiquity. Paintings on vases tell us more about the Greeks, what they looked like, what they did, and what they believed in than any single literary text


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