Greece is a very old country and rich in arts of all kinds. Whether in architecture, sculpture, pottery, paintings, weaving and other forms of art, the Greeks have considerably influenced the culture of many countries from ancient times to the present day.
To the west, the art of the Roman Empire drew heavily on Greek models. In the east, the conquests of Alexander the Great allowed several centuries of exchanges between the Greeks, Central Asia and Indian cultures, which gave rise to Greco-Buddhist art, with its ramifications until in Japan itself. After the Renaissance in Europe, the humanistic aesthetics and sophisticated techniques of Greek art inspired several generations of European artists. Until the 19th century, the classicism of Greek art strongly influenced the art of the Western world.
The history of art
Art historians generally define ancient Greek art as art produced in the Greek-speaking region between the 13th and 1st centuries BC. They generally exclude art from the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, which existed between the 15th and 12th centuries BC. Although these were Greek-speaking cultures, there is little or no continuity between the art of these civilizations and later Greek art.
At the other end of the time scale, art historians generally agree that ancient Greek art ended with the establishment of Roman culture in the Greek-speaking world. After this date, they believe that Greco-Roman art, despite its monumental achievements, drew on older Greek models and slowly declined in quality until the advent of Christianity put an end to the classical period. around the 5th century (for later periods, see Roman Art and Byzantine Art).
Styles and periods
Ancient Greek art is traditionally divided into three stylistic periods: the Archaic period, the Classical period and the Hellenistic period.
The archaic period generally begins in the 8th century BC. BC, although in reality we know little about Greek art during the two previous centuries: these are the “dark centuries”. The Greco-Persian Wars (480-448 BC) are often taken as the boundary between the Archaic period and the Classic period; the reign of Alexander the Great, which lasted from 336 to 323 BC. AD, separates the classical period from the Hellenistic period. In reality, there was no clear transition from one period to another. Different art forms developed at different speeds in the Greek world and as throughout history some artists worked in more innovative and avant-garde styles than others.
Vestiges and remains of ancient Greek art
Ancient Greek art has survived to us in the form of sculpture and architecture but also in more minor art forms such as coin making, pottery and jewelry making. From the Archaic period there remains much painted pottery but these remains give a false impression of the extent of Greek artistic expression. The Greeks, like other European cultures, considered painting to be the noblest form of art. The painter Polygnotus of Thasos, who worked in the middle of the 5th century BC. J.-C., was considered by the Greeks in the same way as Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo were later considered.
Greek painters mainly worked on wooden panels, which were quickly damaged after 400 BC. AD, because they were no longer maintained. Today, few traces of Greek painting remain. There remain a few examples of painted terracotta and paintings on the walls of tombs, especially in Macedonia and Italy, but also in Alexandria, Cyrene or Thessaly. Of the masterpieces of Greek painting, we have only a few Roman copies, but most are of inferior quality. The painting on the pottery, of which there are many vestiges, gives an idea of the aesthetics of Greek painting. However, the techniques used were very different from those used for larger paintings.
Even in the fields of sculpture and architecture, only a few works have come down to us. For Christians of the 4th and 5th centuries, destroying a pagan work was an act of piety. Burnt marble was used as lime and this was the fate of many statues from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. In the same way, for lack of metal during the Middle Ages, one destroyed the bronze statues of the old Greek time. The statues that have come down to us had been buried or forgotten, or in the case of the bronzes, lost at sea.
Fabric printing in Greece in the 20th century
There is a rich and extensive range of Greek painters, and this at all times, from several decades to our era. We preferred to choose a single artist and present him here with praise for his talent and his innovations, in order to honor his talent and his great contribution to the field of fabric printing throughout the first half of the 20th century.
Fabric printing by Mariano Fortuny
Considered by many to be a 20th century Leonardo da Vinci, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was a multi-talented artist who displayed his creative genius in a wide variety of fields, from theater lighting to interior design to photography and fabric printing. He does not distinguish between “major” and “minor” arts, considering that they all seek to achieve the same ideal of timeless beauty, based on the reworking of ancient cultures.
The launch of the textile workshop
Fortuny’s first breakthrough into the world of fabrics came in 1907, when, together with Henriette Nigrin, his life companion and muse, he opened a fabric printing workshop on the third floor of his house, Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfey. In their designs, the couple used Fortuny’s painting and deep knowledge of Eastern culture; their clothing recalled that of ancient Greece and Moroccan, Arabic and Japanese costumes, while the prints featured floral, marine and abstract motifs taken from Minoan, Hispano-Moorish, Turkish and Persian works.
The artist has reinterpreted ideas from bygone eras and distant lands to create pieces with flexible shapes, intended to enhance the beauty of the female body with their simple yet refined elegance, freeing it from the constraining character of corsets and bustiers. Fortuny’s workshop devised an unusual approach that drew inspiration from Minoan culture and the Eastern world into an innovative and very modern style, with garments that were “faithfully ancient but distinctly original […]”, as the saying goes. so well Marcel Proust. Not everyone knows that the author admired the fashion designer and artist so much that he quoted his real name in his novel “In Search of Lost Time”.
In just a few years, the small workshop of Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei has become a veritable factory and textile shop, employing a hundred people. It was there that Fortuny created her first scarves, dresses and sumptuous garments in printed silk velvet; it was only later that he embarked on the creation of fabrics for upholstery, using tools he had invented himself. At first, the Fortunys adopted a very archaic method of printing – direct printing using wooden dies. After a first separation impression, which made it possible to create the outline of the pattern using a mixture preventing the fabric from absorbing the dye, other rough impressions were made. The dye spreads by capillary action, but stops at the barrier created in the first press, ensuring that each color has a clean edge.
In 1910, Fortuny patented a new system for printing large pieces of fabric, based on a mechanical rotary process. By fixing the dies on a frame or using them in continuous strips, production times could be reduced significantly, while maintaining the craftsmanship and the use of natural products for the dyes. The fashion designer also patented an innovative system for pleating the finest silks, which he then used to create the famous Delphos dress. In 1919 he opened a factory on the island of La Giudecca for the semi-industrial production of printed cotton for upholstery, while his wife Henriette continued to focus on the production of clothing in the workshop of the Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei.
An international success
The clothes, theatrical costumes and cotton used for the furnishings of Fortuny were unveiled at an exhibition at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris in 1911, and were immediately acclaimed by the public and critics. Boutiques were opened in Paris, London and New York, and the activities of the workshop multiplied. Famous aristocrats, intellectuals and actresses came from the most luxurious Venetian hotels to visit the artist’s studio, and the Fortuny name quickly became synonymous with exclusivity, sophistication and elegance.