Greek Art Was More Than Statues

Greek architecture and statuary can be so overpowering that many people, even those who really enjoy art, neglect the many other forms of visual art produced by the Greeks. The fact is that the groundwork laid by the ancient Greeks in painting were a necessary step for such painters as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. In fact, without the Greeks work with fresco painting, Michelangelo would not have been able to finish the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, which was done in fresco. Fresco is the art of mixing paint directly in with fresh, wet plaster and can be used on both walls and ceilings.

The Greeks loved bright colors and used them liberally. There is a substantial body of evidence that even when they worked stone they painted the work brightly. But they also used floor tiles to create colorful floor and wall mosaics and used the fresco process to create many wonderful wall paintings. These works were incredibly expensive however, some costing more than 10 years wages for the average citizen.

The Greeks Bronze Age works were famous throughout the Western world but most of what was created did not survive. Both Greece and Rome have been rocked by volcanoes, earth quakes, wars and conquests. Most of the work has been destroyed and the details can only be determined from written sources that happened to survive. The sad fact is that nearly all of the surviving pieces can only be found in ancient tombs and underground temples, of which there were many.


But the Greeks learned the basics of these arts from the Minoan culture. These people were actually painting murals on the walls of all of the palaces on the island nearly 4,000 years ago. Unfortunately however the island was invaded in the 15th century BC by the Mycenaean people and nearly all of the paintings were buried in the rubble of the palaces. Neither the Minoans or the Greeks actually hung these paintings from the walls. If they had, we might still have many of them today simply because invaders would have stolen them. But they were painted on walls and when the buildings were destroyed, either by war or natural disaster, the paintings were also destroyed. The has been more than one set of Federal Grants issued to study this problem.

The subjects of the paintings were far different however in each culture. The Minoans favored painting either landscapes or some sort of plant or animal. The Greeks on the other hand favored human subjects.