Greek art can be traced from its earliest formal inception at about 2500 b.c. in the Cycladic culture and in the Minoan prehistorical civilization on Crete.
Greece was not a country at that time. It was a loose collection of city-states existing along the shores and on the small islands of the Mediterranean.
Western classical art was heavily influenced by Greek, Persian, Etruscan and Phoenician art and traces of its influence can still be found in modern art movements of the 21st century.
Greek art is mainly four forms: architecture, sculpture, painting, pottery and jewellery making.
Greek art can be divided into several periods:
Three main scholarly distinctions of ancient Greek art are the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic.
The Archaic Period from about 1000 bc continues until the Persian Wars of 448-480 BC and the wars are considered the primary division between Archaic Cycladic & Trojan and the Classical periods.
Alexander the Great in 323 BC is the mark separating the Classical from the Hellenistic period.
Much of the ancient Greek art we know only from inferior barbaric and clumsy Roman copies. Many of the art forms and methods used by the Romans were developed by Ancient Greek artists.
All forms of art which included sculpture, landscape, portrait painting, even genre painting—were advanced in Greek times, far more advanced than in their Roman conquerors who merely imitated the Greeks for hundreds of years.
Greek wall art and portraiture has not survived well but existing examples of Greek sculpture and vase painting clearly indicates the superiority of Greek art over Roman.
Masterpieces of art on the level of the earlier Greeks were never fully achieved by Roman artists.
Peiraikos is singled out by Pliny as one "whose artistry is surpassed by only a very few…He painted barbershops and shoemakers’ stalls, donkeys, vegetables, etcetera, for which reason he came to be known as the ‘painter of vulgar subjects’; yet these works are altogether delightful, and they were typically sold at higher prices than the greatest paintings of many other artists of his time."
The Greeks copied by the Romans were legendary. The most famous Greek artists were Polygnotos, noted for his wall murals, and Apollodoros, the originator of chiaroscuro. Zeuxis and Parrhasius were the originators of "realism" and were the foundational inventors of trompe l’oeil painting.
Skopas, Praxiteles, Phidias, and Lysippos were the foremost sculptors of ancient Greece. Roman artists could draw heavily from the plundered Greek artworks in the Roman capital.