The Art Political (part one)

Monday, March 3, 2008

As Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, and John McCain continue their tussle over who gets to sit on the throne, I thought it would be interesting to take a brief look at the history of political art from ancient Greece to today.

It seem that art and politics have been mixed up since the beginning of recorded history (at least) and the two have often supported eachother. In the ancient world, Greece and Persia fough a PR campaign through their respective art styles, both trying to make the case that their way was better.

The parthenon frieze shows the Greek triumph of order over chaos and Persia's answer (Darius and Xerxes Giving Audience, c 490 BCE) shows a more peaceful triumph of order over chaos.

But the first truly overt use of political art seems to come from
Alexander the Great. The man was an absolute PR genius and came up with a really ingenious way of helping to solidify his grip on his new empire: he basically plastered his face on everything he could think of. As his army marched through Mesopotamia they were picking up a lot of loot and some of that was converted into coinage that, for the first time, bore the image of a ruler. His face also showed up in large and small forms everywhere he went....from large marble statues to cheap touristy little busts. Suddenly, all these lands full of people who had never heard of this Macedonian invader, could actually see his face and feel his power through coinage.
What an amazing thing! Next time I'll continue exploring political art from ancient Rome and hopefully get to more modern times relatively quickly.


Jared in Kansas said...


BackwoodSophisticate said...

Very interesting!! Great blog!

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