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Lesson Plans


Re: Question on Greek art

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Sun, 29 Mar 1998 09:08:10 -0600


At 12:58 PM 3/27/98 -0500, Ellen wrote:

>Question...The phrase, "Man is the measure of all things," refers to the Doric
>column order. The base of the column is one sixth the height of the column
>which directly corresponds to the human body.
>
>Does this phrase also have deeper implications in reference to Greek art. Would
>anyone like to elaborate on the phrase, its context and meaning?

In response to your topic, "Man is the measure of all things," , I would
like to refer briefly to Greek religion and its relation to art. I remember
a few reading assignments concerning the topic while I was working on my
fist masters at K-State. We should probably try to keep it short, so in a
nutshell....art and religion seem to have found a condition of equilibrium
in the Hellenic epoch. The Greek view of religion does not fit well with
our own underlying, contemporary concepts of faith. Greek religion semed to
have carried the process of rationalization so far that religion became
philosophy.

I believe Worringer said that with Classical man, "the absolute dualism of
man and the outer world ceased to exist., and consequently also the absolute
transcendentalism of religion and art."
In other words, the celestial was divested of its outer-worldliness and was
made worldly, absorbed into mundane human activity.

In "The Greek View of Life," Lowes Dickinson wrote:

"By virtue of this uncritical and unreflective mode of apprehension the
Greeks...were made at home in the world. Their religion suffused and
transformed the facts both of nature and of society, interpreting what would
otherwise have been unintelligible by the idea of an activity which they
could understand because it was one which they were constantly exercising
themselves. Being thus supplied with a general explanation of the world,
they could put aside the question of its origin and end, and devote
themselves freely and fully to the art of living, unhampered by scruple, and
doubts as to the nature of life."

"...they were not conscious of a spiritual relation to God, of sin as an
alienation from the divine power and repentance as the means of restoration
to grace. The pangs of conscience, the fears and hopes, the triumph and
despair of the soul which were the preoccupations of the Puritan, were
phenomena unknown to the ancient Greek. He lived and acted undisturbed by
scrupulous introspection; and the function of his religion was rather to
quiet the conscience by ritual than to excite it by admonition and reproof."

All of this sifts down through a multitude of cultural events in the lives
of the Greeks, including art and architecture. Most of us come away from
our first art history survey course with some understanding of the concept
of "Idealism" as practiced by the Greeks. This search for the most perfect
of human proportions to be combined into a sculptural form worthy of housing
the spirit of a Zeus or Aphrodite was to drive them through the awkward
efforts of the Archaic and into their mastery of the human form in the
Classical Period. For Classical citizens, the idea, "Humankind was the
measure of all things," certainly involved more then the Doric order.

Hope this helps,

Bob
Robert Fromme <rfromme> or <rfromme>