Vase Painting

Greek artists are also very well-known for their vase painting. There are two different vase painting techniques: black-figure painting and red-figure painting. Black-figure painting was first to develop. In black-figure painting, the figures are painted in black (hence the name of the technique). The background is left red, the color of the clay. Any details on the black figures were engraved using a fine and stiff metal engraver. Red-figure painting is the opposite of the black-figure painting. What was previously red in red-figure painting becomes black, and what was previously black becomes red. Thus, in red-figure painting, the figures are red while the background is black. To work in this technique, the painter first had to outline the shape of the figures. Then he would paint the background black. To add detail to the figures, the painter could paint them in using a soft and fine brush. Compared to the engraving technique used in black-figure painting, painting in the details using brushes offers the artist much greater flexibility.

An example of a painter who painted using both the red-figure and the black-figure technique is the “Andokides Painter”, that is, the anonymous painter who decorated the vases signed by the potter Andokides. In the two vases below, the painter has painted the same scene using the two different techniques.

Black-figure painting (left) and red-figure painting (right)

The two vases below depict the scene of Achilles and Ajax playing a dice game. Achilles and Ajax, two comrades, are playing a game of dice as they wait to be called to war. Both men are seated with the table in between. They hold their spears and their shields are nearby, indicating that each man is ready for action a moment’s notice. The composition is symmetrical and the scene is boxed within a frame. The painting depicts “the calm before the storm”.

I really like these Greek vase paintings. I am very impressed by the intricate details, such as the pattern on the men’s cloaks and the border of the frame, which the artist did not overlook.

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