I recently watched a BBC documentary series about Greek art. Although most of the show was dedicated to sculpture there were a few interesting points raise about painting in Ancient Greek times.
It was the ancient Greeks who shaped our view of what art should be. No other civilisation has played such a role in creating our vision of artistic perfection. The ancient Greeks invented realistic art in both painting and sculpture.
The ancient Greeks were fascinated with the natural world, geometric designs, tales of heroes, the human form, Athens and the classical style that emerged from there.
Uncovered in a palace in Crete:
The story of bull leaping, a very early fresco that has been lost over time. However the ideas seen much later in Matisse’s cut out of acrobats with the smooth curving lines of the bulls back and the shape the acrobat makes. Minoan art was full of images of nature: the patterns and the dangers of nature.
Another example of ancient painting was found in the Akrotiri Frescoes on Santorini:
Again smooth curves are seen in the blue monkeys and the figures are becoming more detailed and elaborate.
A love of mythology was often combined with geometric pattern. It was the fascination with pattern that would lead Greek art out of the dark ages as human forms appeared in the patterns to start with but gradually got more elaborate and took over as the central piece; this led to the black figure technique prominent on Greek pottery.
Some of the first landscape paintings were also seen in Ancient Macedonian frescoes. As painting moved to become even more realistic and life-like:
Western art’s first female nude was made – the Aphrodite of Knidos.