Of the three major ancient cultures, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, it is difficult to choose which one had the greatest influence on Western art. This is largely because Western culture developed from a blending of the ancient cultures over time. The influence of all three of these cultures can be found in Western art. It could be said that each of them had their own individual impact on Western art. This essay will examine these influences.
The ancient art of Egypt had a significant influence on the development of western art, as it was the first art form to develop its own recognizable style.1 Some of the features of ancient Egyptian art included the portrayal of the human form from a frontal view.1 They also introduced formal rules for how certain entities should be portrayed, such as pharaohs and common people.1 From the standpoint that they were the first to develop a signature culture style, which later influenced the formal development of Greek and other art forms.
The Roman nation was the more powerful nation of all for several centuries.2 Yet, surprisingly it contributed little to the development of art in western culture.2 Their pursuits were focused on military pursuits, rather than advancement of the arts. Much Roman art is considered to have been borrowed from the Greeks.2 Even though the Roman Empire had a significant influence on the development of technology, it had little influence on the development of art in Western culture.
If one were to choose one of these cultures that had the greatest influence on western art, it would have to be the Greek culture. The influences of Greek artwork can be seen in the statues and pottery of the Italian Renaissance. There have been several Greek revivals, such as that which occurred in the late 1800s and the 1920s.3 The influence of Greek art can be seen in the art of the Art Deco period. Greek art never truly died out and for nearly 400 years, it has experienced several revivals where artists tried to mimic it in their own works. The fact that Greek art experienced revival periods is evidence that it not only influenced the development of Western art, it remained a popular art form in and of itself.
Example of Greek the survival of Greek art can be found in the artistic elements of architecture. Greek revival architecture with its majestic columns and doorway arches can be seen throughout Europe and America. Michelangelo studied the great masters, including Greek sculptors. Michelangelo’s statue David displays several Greek conventions of proportion, which demonstrates the influence of Greek statues in the Italian Renaissance. One can see the same intensity in the Greek statue The Victorious Youth.
Another example of Greek art that can be found reflected in Western art is the Amphora from 530 BCE that can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It depicts two black warriors with shields preparing to impale each other with spears. A similar representation can be found in medieval artworks such as the Bayeux Tapestry and Medieval manuscripts.
The survival of the Greek art form is support for the argument that of the three cultures examined, Greek art had the greatest influence on Western art forms. The Egyptians were the second most significant because they were the first, but one can find many more examples of Greek style throughout the ages even into the last century. The Romans can be considered to have the least amount of influence. It is difficult to find true examples of Roman art that were not copies of Greek art. Greek art developed into a form that is recognizable to almost anyone even marginally familiar with art. The Greek culture contributed to art in many mediums from pottery, to painting, to sculpture, and architecture. Greek art is iconic and stands as a tribute to their advancement of human thought and expression.