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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Greek Art-From Crude to Classical-"Kleobis and Biton" (*The Argive Twins) and "Marathon Boy "

Over time surface was given greater consideration and culminated in works like "Marathon Boy", believed by some to be the work of Praxiteles the most famous of later classical Greek sculptors.

All three of the previous examples have some fundamental things in common. Each concerns itself with a single nude male figure. Each could be said to be a synthesis of naturalistic observation of living models and an abstract canon of proportion. If works like these can be said to be one development from the kouros figure perhaps the sculptural group treating a legendary event is another.
"Kleobis and Biton" may be an example of an archaic Greek treatment of a legendary narrative. Kleobis and Biton were young Argives whose mother was a priestess of Hera. On the occasion of a great festival in honour of the goddess the oxen who were to pull the wagon taking their mother did not arrive from the fields in time. The brothers yoked themselves to the wagon and pulled it a distance of 5 miles to the temple.The assembly of people at the temple praised the youths, the men commenting on the brothers strength, the women for their devotion to their mother. Their mother prayed to the goddess that her sons would be granted the highest blessing men could attain. the brothers lay down in the temple precinct after their exertions and never woke again. (Be careful what you wish for ?)
None of this narrative can be deduced by looking at the figures.The only visible clue being almost identical statues conceived as one work. The archaic method of figure composition shapes a definition of the brothers as commemorative rather than narrative in spirit.
Grouping figures in an historical,legendary or mythical narrative required an approach different from that used in "the Argive Twins".The greater freedom in methods of composing figures as naturalistic observation was included in sculpture initially supplied that approach. However using cultural narratives as a source for visual works also reshapes that approach and its results. Sculpture or painting tends to be limited to illustrating one point in a narrative that must define the narrative source clearly. Events from mythical or legendary narrative cannot by definition be directly observed. The artist must "re-create" the action through memory or imagination or both. An artist must therefore first conceive the action they wish to define, thereafter observation of the living model is used to "realise" this conception. Accordingly a work with narrative as its source may/must embody something of an artists personality. Assuming artists have a choice, one moment of action from many moments of action must be selected. Implicit in such selection may be interpretations, judgements, preferences, sympathy with or understanding of particular narratives or moments of narrative.

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