Rembetika (gutsy blues music with folk influences) first made its appearance in Greece in the late 19th century. After decades of inauthentic performances, interest in traditional rembetika has resurfaced, and musicians strumming bouzouki (a traditional Greek instrument similar to a mandolin) can be found in several clubs. Trendier venues offer a playlist saturated with Western music, but local band Pyx Lax is gaining something of an international following.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE. After the Dark Ages that followed the collapse of Mycenaean civilization, a new artistic style emerged with ceramics as its primary medium and Athens as its major cultural center. During the Archaic Period (700-480 BC), artists decorated clay figurines and pottery with geometrical motifs reminiscent of basket-weaving patterns. The Archaic Period also saw the innovation of the Doric and Ionic architectural orders. Ionic columns were distinguished from their more austere Doric predecessors by their twin volute (scrolled spiral) capitals, and their slender, fluted shafts.
The arts flourished as Athens reached the pinnacle of its political and economic power in what is known as the Classical Period (480-323 BC). The peerless Athenian Acropolis (526), built during this era, embodied classic for the entire world; its crown, the Parthenon, demonstrates the Greek aesthetic of perfect proportions. Sculptors mastered the representation of the human form during the Classical Period. By the middle of the 5th century BC, they had developed the severe style, which elevated the human form to a plane of universal physical perfection, idealizing the athletic heroism praised by Pindar’s Olympic odes.
After the death of Alexander the Great, the flamboyant Hellenistic Period rose out of the ashes of Classical Greece. Scuttling the simpler Doric and Ionic styles, Eastern Greeks designed ornate, flower-topped Corinthian columns. Hellenistic architects worked on a monumental scale, building huge complexes of temples and palaces. Astoundingly precise acoustics graced the enormous amphitheaters like the one at Epidavros (539); a coin dropped onstage is audible from the most distant seat. Hellenistic sculpture exuded passion, testing the aesthetic value of ugliness. With the arrival of the Roman Empire, styles shifted to suit Roman tastes.
The art and architecture in Greece under Byzantine and Ottoman rule belonged more to those imperial cultures than to Greece. Religious Byzantine artistry saw the creation of magnificent mosaics, iconography, and church architecture. Mosaics were composed of tesserae, small cubes of stone, glass-covered ceramic, or metallic foil. Sparkling examples can be seen in the churches of Thessaloniki (540) and Meteora (545) and at the Monastery of Osios Loukas.
After Greek independence, nationalist sentiment led the government to subsidize Greek art. King Otto encouraged young artists to study their craft in Munich, and the Polytechneion, Greece’s first modem art school, was established in 1838. While sculptors still looked to Classical Greece for inspiration, the first wave of post-independence painters showed strong evidence of their German training.
Many 20th-century Greek artists contended with European trends, including Impressionism, Expressionism, and Surrealism. Other painters rejected foreign influence, among them the much-adored Theophilos Chatzimichael (1873-1934).
Modem Greek art unfortunately tends to be overshadowed by its Classical roots. Current notable artists include Yiannis Psychopedis (b. 1945), whose paintings combine social and aesthetic criticism, and the painter Opy Zouni (b. 1941), who has won much international acclaim for her geometric art.
FILM. After suffering under the colonels’s junta, the Greek film industry rebuilt itself throughout the 1980s and has recently emerged as a distinguished and prolific presence in the international arena. The 1982 reestablishment of the Greek Film Center, a state-supported institute, aided this revitalization by funding and producing many of the most highly regarded modem Greek films, including works by Nlkos Perakls, Pantelis Vougaris, and Nikos Panayotopoulos, Greece’s most acclaimed filmmaker and winner of the 1998 Cannes Palme d’Or.
Greece Map Photo Gallery
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