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High Classical and Hellenistic eras are significant time periods in art history, where various art forms drastically progressed. The evolution allowed artists to gain great recognition from the works of art they created, reflecting the artistic philosophies during those times. With respect to the masterpieces by renowned artists, this essay will be analyzing these two periods. In particular, The Doryphoros, sculpted by Polykleitos will be compared to Agesander’s, Polydorus’, and Athenodorus’, natives of Rhodes, the statue of Laocoön and His Sons. These two are prime examples of artistic progression during their ages. Polykleitos represented the High Classical period by designing a naturalistic sculpture, while Laocoön and His Sons constructed more movement in human form. The High Classical era focused on refinement and optical illusions to produce aesthetically pleasing proportion, which resulted in experimenting with monumentality and space. The Hellenistic period followed, during which artists take the naturalism of the body’s form and expression to a level of hyper-realism where the expression of the sculptor’s face and body elicit an emotional response.
Some prominent artists were given birth in the High Classical era like Polykleitos, who was a Greek sculptor that specialized in bronze. He undoubtedly contributed to the progression of art considering he developed a canon of proportion and is credited to have created a style recognized as Classical Greek sculpture. A note-worthy sculpture created by Polykleitos throughout this time was the Doryphoros. Idealized proportions and balance are what brought attention to this bronze sculpture. It was also referred as an ideal image of masculinity (University of Cambridge). The artwork itself seems so simple and natural as its pose is slightly leaned and its detail to the human body. The “S” like motion throughout the body allows viewers to notice the muscle definition along with the veins that run down the forearm. The original sculpture unfortunately does not exist today, however a Roman marble copy was made. The marble copy can easily be spotted due to its “tree trunk” on its right leg and the block of marble connecting the right wrist to the right hip (Witcombe). Marble is a weaker medium than bronze, which makes the additional features necessary. This artwork is an exemplary example of the High Classical era as it reflects how men were seen and its attention to the human body in art at the time.
During the Hellenistic era, there were also a few artists who made significant developments towards art and humanism. For example, the creators of the sculptor Laocoön and His Sons, Agesander’s, Polydorus’, and Athenodorus’. It is based on classical mythology, like most Greek art. To be precise, this piece correlates to a poem detailing the Trojan War, which indicates Laocoön and his sons, Antiphates and Thymbraeus, being attacked by sea serpents sent by a god as a punishment for advising against the use of the wooden horse (Vatican Museums). This marble sculpture showcases the Hellenistic fashion with its realistic depiction of movement and expression. While it is a busy scene, the story is portrayed beautifully because of the detail to emotion in all family members as they try to break free from the grasps of the serpents. Artists began implementing facial expressions to convey a story and to show feelings through an inanimate object. The Hellenistic period took High Classical art and forced emotion into them.
While all ages have influences in art history, these two eras exhibit the drastic differences that can happen with time. It is clearly seen that artists learned the power of art and the capability it has to convey a story without words. From a nude statue with a natural stance to a sculpture with three humans struggling to survive, art will never stop progressing.
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