Vase Painting

Vase Painting

 

(classical), painting of ceramic vessels in antiquity. Such painting had gradually developed in the period of Cretan-Mycenaean art—for example, Kamares vases with their stylized, flexibly circular plant designs (20th-18th centuries B.C.) and vases with naturalistic depictions of plants (late 17th and 16th centuries B.C.), octopuses, fish, and starfish (16th century B.C.). From the 20th to the 16th centuries B.C. these paintings freely covered the entire vessel. Stricter in their composition were the vase paintings of the palace style (late 15th century B.C.) with their more minute and geometricized plant ornamentation and wavy lines. In Late Mycenaean art (14th-12th centuries B.C.) the paintings (schematic depictions of people and animals, gradually supplanted by geometric motifs and spirals) were more arid and laconic.

A unique level of perfection was attained by vase painting in ancient Greek art; such vase painting provides some idea of ancient Greek painting, almost none of which has been preserved. The vases were coated with so-called black varnish, then with white and purple colors, more rarely with the unstable watercolors (light blue, pink, red, gray, and yellow) and gilt. The composition of the painting is organically subordinated to the form of the vessels; the linear rhythm of these paintings is distinguished by its refinement and dynamic quality. In the history of the development of Greek vase painting the following sequence may be noted: sub-Mycenaean vase painting, which is based upon the Late Mycenaean tradition (first half of the 11th century B.C.; its ornamentation consists of circles, wavy lines, and triangles); the protogeometric style (from the second half of the 11th to the tenth centuries B.C.); the geometric style (ninth to eighth centuries B.C.; horizontal bands of rhythmic, linear designs and geometricized depictions, clearly revealing the vase’s structural principle); the carpet style (seventh century B.C.; polychrome depictions of animals and fantastic creatures in combination with plant designs). During the sixth century B.C. the black-figure style flourished in Attica (figures were superimposed with black varnish against the yellowish or reddish background of the clay; details of clothing, ornamentation, and the like were then executed in white and purple paint). The black-figure style was characterized by the musical purity of its contoured lines, its generalized black flat silhouettes and the delicate emotional quality of its scenes (for the most part, mythological). Its principal masters were Clitias, Exekias, and Amasis. Around 530 B.C. there occurred the transition to red-figure vase painting (a black background with the figures having the colors of the clay; a subsidiary role was played by ornamentation; there was an abundance of genre and mythological scenes). Red-figure vase painting permitted the forms to be painted in greater detail and volumes to be indicated with the assistance of interior lines. Red-figure vase painting in the strict style (during the last quarter of the sixth century and the beginning of the fifth century B.C.) is distinguished by the meticulousness and grace of its drawing, while retaining a certain rigidity and angularity of forms; important masters were Euphronius, Duris, and the so-called Brygos vase painter. Beginning in the second quarter of the fifth century B.C. depiction in the free style of vase painting became more volumetric and more complex. A precise and laconic quality in drawing, along with a mournful lyricism, are the essential characteristics of the polychrome paintings on the white, funerary lecythi, dating from the third quarter of the fifth century B.C. Characteristic of vase painting executed at the end of the fifth and during the fourth centuries B.C. was a decorative exuberance (the luxuriant style, as exemplified by the paintings of Meidias and others), an overloaded quality in the composition, attempts to convey perspective, and violation of the unity of depiction and of the form of the vessel. In addition to work done in Greece itself, vase painting flourished in southern Italy (Apulian and Campanian vases). The vase painting of the Etruscans was under the strong influence of Greek vase painting. Characteristic of Greek vase painting during the third and second centuries B.C. were sketchily drawn, simple linear and geometric ornamentations.

REFERENCES

Val’dgauer, O. Imperatorskii Ermitazh: Kratkoe opisanie sobraniia antichnykh raspisnykh vaz. St. Petersburg, 1914.
Maksimova, M. I. Antichnye figurnye vazy, vol. 1. Moscow, 1916.
Blavatskii, V. D. Istoriia antichnoi raspisnoi keramiki. Moscow, 1953.
Pfuhl, E. Malerei und Zeichnung der Griechen, vols. 1-3. Munich, 1923.
Buschor, E. Griechische Vasen. Munich, 1940.
Beazley, J. D. Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters. Oxford, 1942.
Beazley, J. D. Attic Black-Figure Vase-Painters. Oxford, 1956.
Himmelmann-Wildschütz, N. Erzählung und Figur in der archaischen Kunst. Mainz-Wiesbaden, 1967.
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