Art influenced by Ancient Greece

Western Europe had to wait until the Renaissance to rediscover the art of the ancients – and with it the influence of the Greeks.

Art from antiquity was being dug up and rediscovered. Forgotten for centuries, these unearthed masterpieces inspired Renaissance painters and sculptors such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to master the realism and energy that they found in ancient statues. The art of the Renaissance spread the influence of Greek art around Europe. For generations to come classical art – as Greek and Roman art became known – was viewed as the essential model for new art.

The influence of the art of the ancient Greeks extended beyond sculpture and into painting.

From the Renaissance onwards, European painters such as Rubens grappled with the same concerns that drove the ancient Greeks – how to realistically capture the human body in all its complexity. Creating movement and drama and the feeling of living, breathing flesh on a flat canvas was seen as extremely difficult. Copying the art of earlier Renaissance artists – who had been directly influenced by ancient art – kept Greek art alive in new forms for centuries.

By the end of the 17th Century the sons of the wealthy were going on extended educational visits across Europe called Grand Tours.

Greek art found in Italy became popular and whole generations were able to see the ruins and other artefacts first-hand. At home many of these tourists commissioned local artisans to make replicas of the art they had seen. Pottery-maker Josiah Wedgwood capitalised by creating vases based on ancient Greek vases that had themselves found their way into the stately homes of the wealthy.

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