Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MACEDONIA ARCHITECTURE Fragments ~ Large Art Print

DESCRIPTION OF PRINT SUBJECT: The lack of durable materials and constant human occupation of the sites has prevented the conservation of much of the architecture of the early years of life in Macedonia. The temples (Therme, Neapolis) and public buildings (Aigai, Pella) follow the architectural trends of southern Greece, in particular of the Ionic colonies and the Aegean islands. The selectivity and originality with which features borrowed from the Ionic and Doric styles are combined and incorporated are characteristic of the public buildings erected in the ancient and new walled cities of the Macedonian kingdom. In the Hellenistic period palaces, sanctuaries, theaters, gymnasia, and baths, where the use of stucco and decorative detail is extensive, are incorporated in the town-plan. The improvement of the socio-political and economic conditions is attested in the splendid private houses and monumental tombs. In Roman times, the concept of architecture on a big scale led to the reconstruction or erection of large buildings of a public nature in the populous cities, such as Thessalonike.

The most representative examples of palace architecture in Greece are the palaces of Vergina (ancient Aigai) and Pella. The residential apartments of the palace at Vergina (350-325 BC) are disposed around a peristyle (central columned courtyard), while at Pella (mid-4th century BC) the ensemble consists of connected self-contained units forming suites around a peristyle and having access to a monumental gateway. Theaters, which often belonged to the same building project, were built near the palaces. At the time of the Successors and of the Antigonids, these building complexes underwent modifications and additions. In Thessalonike, the Galerian complex of the Roman period (early 4th century AD) is a unique example of combined royal residence, administrative-military center and Hippodrome. At that period new theaters (Dion) and odea were built and the older ones reconstructed in order to accommodate the contemporary requirements of theatrical performances and games.

The numerous sanctuaries of the Macedonian cities (Dion, Thessalonike, Pella, Amphipolis, Edessa) were either scattered about the city or concentrated in its religious center. The absence of their architectural remains is due to the lack of resistant building materials (such as marble) for the construction of monuments. In sanctuaries built of plastered limestone blocks and unbaked bricks, Zeus, Athena, Demeter, Dionysos, Artemis, Aphrodite, Asklepios, Herakles, and the Muses -- among others -- were worshipped under a variety of epithets. In the Hellenistic period the cult of various eastern deities, such as Serapis and Isis, was also introduced. To these divinities were added under the Romans the deified emperors (at Beroia, Thasos, Philippi). The cult of autochthonous gods was often combined with that of eastern deities in shrines containing small 'oikoi' (Dion, sacred precint of Isis).

BACKGROUND HISTORY ON PRINT : Louis XIV, the King of France, was a generous patron of the arts. During his long reign (1643-1715), he sought to raise standards of taste and sophistication in the Arts and so a number of royal academies were founded, including the Academy of Painting and Sculpture (1648), the Academie de France in Rome (1663) and the foundation of the Academie royale d'Architecture (1671). This formalized a system for the training of French architects and by elevating artisans to academicians, the power of the medieval guilds was eroded and centered instead on the patronage of the king. Subsidized by the state, the Academy of Architecture was free to those, aged fifteen to thirty, who could pass the entrance examinations. By the nineteenth century, students were obliged to complete a number of increasingly demanding concours or competitions, the most prestigious of which was the Grand Prix de Rome, a rigorous annual examination (a first competition was in 1702, then 1720, then yearly) that provided the winner advanced study at the French Academy in Rome at the Villa Medici, where classical antiquities could be seen first hand. Although drawings of ancient classical ornament had been made for generations before the winners of the Grand Prix de Rome were sent to the Villa Medici, these young French students were the first to go about the work systematically. The drawings were limited to, and solidly based on, carefully studied remains. Further, their presentation in formal academic renderings offers more information than could possibly be supplied even by a large number of photographs. Each year, for the four or five years they were in Rome, the students, supported financially with pensions, (hence their name of pensionnaires) were required to produce two sets of drawings, or envois, of Rome's ancient and medieval monuments: the état actuel, which was an exacting representation of the extant state, documenting the site with the precision of an archaeologist, and the état restauré, a more imaginary and often idealized restoration including the rendering of shade and shadow, which was accompanied by a written description of the monument's antiquity and construction. The artists progress usually was from a study of architectural ornaments and fragments gradually moving towards study and design of whole architectural ruins or sites. The series of prints presented here are those of the artist's earlier years when they focused on the details of architectural ornament.

The drawings submitted for the annual Grand Prix de Rome were on themes chosen by the Academy. The subjects set are indeed grand in scale and often in reach: triumphal arches (1730, 1747, 1763), palaces (1752, 1772, 1791, 1804, 1806), city squares and markets (1733, 1792, 1801), town halls (1742, 1787, 1813), law courts (1782, 1821) museums (1779) and educational institutions including libraries (1775, 1786, 1789, 1800, 1807, 1811, 1814, 1815, 1820) - all schemes for the promotion of civilization as the ancients would have understood the term. Stylistically, the entries usually share common characteristics: a grand Roman manner, with columns and orders, vaults and polychromy; an insistent and regular geometry, usually the square or the circle but sometimes the triangle; a penchant for the hemicycle, the propylaea and the pyramid; and finally a desire to impress by symmetry and the contrast between plain and decorated surfaces. These drawings first were shown in Rome at the French Academy and then were forwarded to Paris to be shown to the members of the Academie des Beaux Arts, one of the constituent bodies of the Institut de France, which was responsible for the Rome Academy. They were also exhibited to the public in Paris. Hector D'Espouy (1854-1929) won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1884, and after four years as a student at the Villa Medici, followed by several years of travel in Italy and Greece, as well as commissions for murals, he returned to the school that educated him in 1895 as the Professor of Ornamental Design at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts. It was in this role for the next several years that he amassed a large collection of the work of the students in Rome and the prints here are the best examples of this work.

Appreciation of these drawings cannot be complete without some explanation of the technique of India Ink wash rendering. Extreme discipline is required to produce these finely studied works of art. Even the simplest drawings require painstaking care and preparation before any of the washes are applied. Great skill is required to do the neccesary linework. All of the information must be recorded before tone is even thought about. The drawing is then meticulously transferred in ink to the watercolor paper and the paper mounted on a board. The rendering itself requires infinite care and patience. Each tone is built up through many faint layers of wash so that the ink seems to be in the paper rather than on it. Each surface is graded so that the final effect of the drawing is that of an object in light and space, with a sense of atmosphere surrounding it.

by Kostas K.


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