Archaic and Classical Greek Art is a revolutionary introduction to the images and sculptures of Ancient Greece from the Geometric period to the early Hellenistic. By carefully examining the context in which sculptures and paintings were produced, author Robin Osborne shows how artists responded to the challenges they faced in the formidable and ambitious world of the Greek city-state, producing the rich diversity of forms apparent in Greek art. Artistic developments of the period combined the influences of the symbolism and imagery of eastern Mediterranean art with the explorations of humanity embodied in the narratives of Greek poetry, while drawings and sculptures referred so intimately to the human form as to lead both ancient and modern theorists to talk in terms of the 'mimetic' role of art. Ranging widely over the fields of sculpture, vase painting, and the minor arts, and offering a wide selection of unusual images alongside the familiar masterpieces, this work discusses the changing forms of art, and how art was used to define men's relationships with other men, women, slaves, society, nature, and the gods.
Traditionally, art books follow a chronological sequence that tracks developing styles in a particular period of art. When influences are mentioned, it is usually in the context of which artist influenced which. Yet just as art does not exist in a vacuum, neither does the artist, and the artist's relationship to his customer's needs and the changing demands of the marketplace are central. Osborne (ancient history, Oxford) breaks with tradition to study simultaneously the art of ancient Greece and the world in which it was produced. Artists working in the Greek city-states were inspired by trade goods from throughout the Mediterranean as well as by their rich literary tradition. Osborne discusses the development of art forms and art's role in defining humankind's relationship with itself, others, nature, and the gods. Roman art is usually thought of as beginning during the early republic and continuing through the third century A.D. to the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Elsner, a lecturer at the Courtauld Institute, takes a slightly different tack, combining the art of the late Roman Empire with that of the early Christian period. Rather than merely cataloging artifacts, Elsner, like Osborne, studies "how art both reflected and contributed to the social construction." These two entries in the "Oxford History of Art" series are, as usual, good, solid introductions to their topics. With a reasonable price, compact format, good maps and time lines, and uniformly clear illustrations, they will be standard texts for their subjects. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.--Mary Morgan Smith, Northland P. L., Pittsburgh