How Greek Red-Figure Vases Replaced Black-Figure Vases

Retro seems to be the in thing these days. There are retro sports jerseys, shoes, video games, movies, etc. What was old is new again. Some wall decor, such as wall vases, celebrates retro artistic styles. While some styles are traditional, others are so retro that they borrow styles from ancient Greek pottery. After Greek vases first began to flourish, they began using the black-figure technique. However, Greek pottery would continue to evolve.


After the Greeks started including human figures on their vases, they began adding other images as well. Many of these objects were mythological in nature. However, it is fascinating how they depicted scenes from Greek literature. Today, we use book illustrations to show a particular scene in a story. Instead, the Greeks would group certain objects together or even create new figures that had not previously appeared in the original stories! The best Black-Figure artists of this time would infuse their own experiences into their artwork.


Within time, Greek artists became limited in their artistic expression, due to the confines of the Black-Figure technique. Thus, at around 530-525 BC, they began developing a new style of vase-painting, called the Red-Figure technique. The figures remain in the clay’s color, and thus become red when someone heats the vase. In this spirit, creators of the wall vase are always striving to improve their craftsmanship.

The Greek artists used one of two main techniques. One method was to use a black glaze in order to create a very thin line that was raised a little bit. This line was a relief line. Meanwhile, the other method involved using a diluted glaze whose hue ranged from dark brown to clear yellow. The artists also applied the glaze as a solid wash, to certain sections of the vase.


The backgrounds of vases created using the Red-Figure technique were also significant. This area included the space in between and surrounding the figures on the vase. Now, the area was a shiny black hue. This contrasted greatly from black-figure vases that onlookers seemed to view against a light shone against it. However, by using the Red-Figure method, each figure seemed to be blanketed by a personal spotlight!

Just as a wall vase today can liven up a room, the new Red-Figure method created some important benefits for onlookers. Viewers of the vases could see it better from long distances. Also, decorations on the vase wore down its shape less. The black background combined with the areas of the vase without figures. As a result, the vases shape was restored, and either the silhouette or the outline of the vase became highlighted.

It is quite amazing how the black-figure method descended from its prominence in the late 7th century BC., to become virtually obsolete a century later. However, even the red-figure method would eventually lose its prominence. Some of today’s contemporary wall decors, such as wall vases, are retro Greek. Use them to turn something old into something new!

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Source by Jessica Ackerman

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