Greek Vase Painting Greek vase painting is a very important part of Greek history. Greek vases provide us with important stories and information about ancient Greek life and mythology. This is acheaved through painted scenes on fired clay. These vases give us an idea of what life might have been like for ancient Greeks. This is why we study the different styles and periods of Greek ceramics. The evolution of Greek vase painting includes four main development periods. These periods are the, geometric, orientalizing, black figure and red figure. This essay will give a good explanation of each period. Also an example of each style is included to give a visual idea of these vases. The geometric period is the first period of Greek vase painting. Beginning in 900 B.C.E. this style is easily recognized by geometric shapes, such as triangles, squares, diamonds, and spirals. For the most part the geometric period vases were used to remember the dead. Often found in cemeteries these vases had no bottoms. It is said that wine and water was poured in and thought to be a kind of offering to the dead. Geometric vases are also known for telling a story. These narratives were depicted in sections that surround the vase and are separated into registers. A good example of geometric vase painting is the Diplon vase (Fig. A3). Both the animals and the humans on this vase are made up of triangles. 700 B.C.E. was the beginning of the orientalizing period. Large make-believe animals and abstract plants seem to be the rage during this stage of develop. Eastern influence had a huge effect on the artists giving us large mythical creatures, that stood against a white back ground. Also we see stylized flowers called rosettes. At this point in time we still have registers that separate the animals and plants. On a vase I call animal in registers (fig. A1) we can see the fictious animals and the rosettes that decorate this vase.
Black Figure technique, which first appeared in Corinth in the early 7th century B.C.E., became the principal style used in vase decoration. Unlike previous methods of vase painting the black figure style was very elaborate. The vase surface was covered with a thin wash of clay. Next a thicker solution of iron-rich clay formed the glaze, and figures in solid silhouette were painted on. Next details were scratched in with a sharp tool. Then red could be added for human hair, horses' manes and parts of garments, and white for women's flesh and the hair of older men. After the details were included a sophisticated three-stage firing process occurred and the pot's glazed design became a deep glossy black, except for the scratched details, and the background was a reddish brown. One example of a vase that uses the black figure style is called "Ajax and Achilles playing a game".(fig. A4) Last is the red figure technique, which began around 530 B.C.E. The black figure process was reversed and the figures appeared in red against a black background. Liquid glaze was used to outline the figures. Contours and inner lines were then added. The painted line could be diluted to a golden brown or left black for a more detailed effect. After the figures were drawn, the background was added in black and the pot was fired. Red figure style is used on a vase created by an artest named Euphronios. This vase is called "the death of Sarpedon".(fig. A2)