The art of painting was in as high esteem in Greece as the art of sculpture and, if we may believe the testimony of Greek and Roman writers, achieved results as important and admirable. But the works of the great Greek painters have utterly perished, and imagination, though guided by ancient descriptions and by such painted designs as have come down to us, can restore them but dimly and doubtfully. The subject may therefore here be dismissed with comparative brevity.
In default of pictures by the great Greek masters, an especial interest attaches to the work of humbler craftsmen of the brush. One class of such work exists in abundance – the painted decorations upon earthenware vases. Tens of thousands of these vases have been brought to light from tombs and sanctuaries on Greek and Italian sites and the number is constantly increasing. Thanks to the indestructible character of pottery, the designs are often intact. Now the materials and methods employed by the vase- painters and the spaces at their disposal were very different from those of mural or easel paintings. Consequently inferences must not be hastily drawn from designs upon vases as to the composition and coloring of the great masterpieces. But the best of the vase- painters, especially in the early fifth century, were men of remarkable talent, and all of them were influenced by the general artistic tendencies of their respective periods. Their work, therefore, contributes an important element to our knowledge of Greek art history.
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