Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art

British Museum

26 March – 5 July 2015

£8.25 with National Art Pass (standard entry £16.50)

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Exploring 2000 years of Greek experimentation with representing the human body.

From the prehistoric simplicity of Cycladic figurines to the realism of the Hellenistic age, this exhibition traces a transformative period in Greek art. From as early as 400BC the Greeks had decided that the body was the most important subject for artistic endeavour, yet it was largely reserved to represent religious idols and mythological figures.

During the Classical period this was to change. From about 500 BC, Greek sculptors began to depict real people; a dramatic increase in technical skill allowed them to produce increasingly realistic representations of human forms. A male nude could just as easily be Apollo or Heracles, as that year's Olympic boxing champion. 

Importantly, not only the style but function of sculpture was altered. Statues found a purpose outside of artistic display; produced under the commission of aristocratic individuals or the state they were used for public memorials, as offerings to temples, oracles and sanctuaries or as markers for graves.

Featuring gods, sports stars and monstrous beings, the array of sculpture on display here reveals changing ideals of beauty, piety and honour in Ancient Greek society.

Venue information

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5.30pm (Fri until 8.30pm)

Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)