Severe Style Sculpture in Ancient Greece
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Severe Style

Kritias boy
Kritias Boy (ca. 480 BC)

About the time of the Battle of Marathon, in 490 BC, Greek sculptors began to work in a new style, called the Severe style. This quickly replaced the old Archaic style.

zeus poseidon
Zeus or Poseidon throwing a spear (460 BC)

In the Severe style, sculptors began to make statues more true to life, and with more feeling in their faces and their movements. Instead of all being standing straight up and looking sacred and peaceful, now statues began to do things: drive a chariot, carry something, throw a spear, or ride a horse. They have emotional expressions. (The same thing happened a little earlier in vase-painting). Instead of all being young men and women, Severe Style sculptors carved older men and children too.


This video of the Zeus-Poseidon statue lets you see it from all sides

See how with this statue of Zeus (or maybe it's Poseidon) the statue balances on just one foot and the toes of the other foot? Sculptors had gotten a lot better at balancing their statues. Also, the Zeus statue is in bronze, which is harder to work but much lighter and more flexible than stone.

Learn by doing: make a clay statue of a person doing something
More about Severe Style Greek Sculpture

Bibliography and further reading about Severe style Greek sculpture:

Ancient Greek Art, by Susie Hodge (1998)- easy reading.

Greek Art and Archaeology (3rd Edition), by John G. Pedley (2002) A lot of good information and is pretty readable. Plus, the author is really an expert in this field.

Greek Sculpture: The Classical Period, a Handbook, by John Boardman (1985). The standard text for introductory college classes. Includes the Severe style.

The severe style in Greek sculpture, by Brunilde Ridgway (1970). By an expert, for specialists.

More about the Severe style
Ancient Greece
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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