English Shelley’s Art Musings

Shelley’s Art Musings – Book Review: Greek Sculpture by Edmund Von Mach

I am a huge fan of Greek art and mythology, and really the two things go hand in hand.  The mythology element helped shape many of the stories and language that we still know and use today and the artworks heavily influenced art movements in the western world, so it would make sense for any art lover to have, at least a rudimentary understanding of both.

The cover of the book Greek Sculpture

Edmund Von Mach has created a great read which covers the techniques and principles of Greek sculpture, but I would say that this is aimed at those who already understand the mythology which inspired the artists, there sculptures not only acting as things of beauty but also as ways to teach the stories and ideas of the culture of the time.

Von Mach lays out the spirit and principles of Greek sculpture in an academic yet passionate way.  The book will take you through the varying styles from the Mycenaean era all the way through to the Hellenistic period, as well as looking at previous studies and the challenges that were had; covering the study of Roman replicas which we documented in the 1700’s to the excavation of true Greek sculpture and the knowledge that finding the originals uncovered.

Silenus with the Infant Dionysos, Hellenistic copy after a Greek original from the 4th century B.C. Marble, h: 190 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

This book is highly detailed and really is a must-read for anyone looking to enhance their knowledge of the process of artistic creation as well as the principals behind it.  It is very clear that the Greeks concentrated on the ideal rather than realism, making the sculptures images of human perfection, rather than realistic and showing the many flaws (such as love handles and wonky facial features).  It also highlights the simplicity in the works, how the sculptures are not cluttered with adornments, but keeps to a base form of humans and the idealistic view.

The book is littered with stunning examples of Greek and Roman replica work, which are inspiring and stunning, making the words of the author come to life.  The pictorial references really bring to life what Von Mach writes about.

This book will walk you through each stage of the Greek artistic eras, explaining not only the actual sculpting techniques but also covering things such as colourisation, early art, and architecture.  Von Mach’s style of writing is thorough and will leave no stone unturned in examining these areas.

Spartan Tombstone, c. 550-525 B.C. Marble, h: 87 cm. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin.

What I do feel this book misses, is the motivation of the artists and the links to their cultural beliefs which drove the artists to create such magnificent pieces.  The book gives little explanation as to what each sculpture displayed is, or the iconography which penetrates the Greek characters, which is so intrinsic to the style of sculpture.  There are beautiful representations of temples, Gods, and Heroes, but this book really concentrates on the logical process of creation, rather than the more Greek artistic notions behind it.  It is very well known that the Greeks were obsessed with the arts, seeing them as a display of understanding the beauty around them, so why it has not been included as one of the key features of this book is a little disappointing. I would have really liked to see some explanations of the sculptures featured as this really would have made this book all-encompassing as a reference guide.

Herakles cleaning the Augean Stables, east metope, Temple of Zeus, Olympia, c. 470-456 B.C. Marble, h: 160 cm. Archaeological Museum, Olympia

Personally, I immensely enjoyed this book, but it does require some previous knowledge to truly appreciate its content.   If the technical process and logical formation of the art are what you are looking for, this is definitely the book for you.

To get a better insight into the life and the work of the Greek Sculpture, continue this exciting adventure by clicking on  Amazon, Kobo.

3 comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.