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The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture

In this wide-ranging study, Richard Neer offers a new way to understand the epoch-making sculpture of classical Greece. Working at the intersection of art history, archaeology, literature, and aesthetics, he reveals a people fascinated with the power of sculpture to provoke wonder in beholders.  Wonder, not accuracy, realism, naturalism or truth, was the supreme objective of Greek sculptors. Neer traces this way of thinking about art from the poems of Homer to the philosophy of Plato. Then, through meticulous accounts of major sculpture from around the Greek world, he shows how the demand for wonder-inducing statues gave rise to some of the greatest masterpieces of Greek art. Rewriting the history of Greek sculpture in Greek terms and restoring wonder to a sometimes dusty subject, The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture is an indispensable guide for anyone interested in the art of sculpture or the history of the ancient world.

288 pages | 10 color plates, 130 halftones, 12 line drawings | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2010

Ancient Studies


Art: Ancient and Classical Art

History: Ancient and Classical History


“This is a big and ambitious volume, beautifully written by one of the leading new voices in the field of Greek visual art. Filled with considerable merits, it aims to do nothing less than shift the language of the art historical description used in accounting the transition from archaic to classical sculpture. From its rich and challenging introduction on the theory of interpretation to its brilliant reading of the Tyrannicides, The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture is unlike any other work in its field.”

James I. Porter, University of California, Irvine

The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture represents an original and worthwhile approach to a major turning point in art history from a distinguished young scholar. Well-informed and up-to-the-minute theoretically, this important contribution to ancient studies offers excellent criticisms of individual works of art that begin to reveal the crushing inadequacies of some of our most respected accounts.”

Mary Beard, University of Cambridge

“The question that Richard Neer asks is of crucial importance: ‘Given that the Archaic Greeks, by definition, didn’t know the classical style, what were they after?’ What Neer advocates in this bold and enlightening book is a return to the analysis of style, not simply in the service of attributions to masters, but instead to the reconstruction of aesthetics. I know of no other work on the subject that addresses the issue in these thought-provoking terms.”

Gloria Ferrari Pinney, Harvard University

"The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture is a major contribution to our understanding of the history of Greek sculpture; it will be a constant source of intellectual stimulation and critical inspiration for scholars in the field for years to come."

Times Literary Supplement

Best Books of 2011

The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture offers a visually and conceptually fresh take on its perennially fascinating subject.”

Michael Fried | Artforum

“This wide-ranging book is one of the most innovative, stimulating, and learned studies of Greek sculpture to be published on this side of the millennium. . . . This is a book full of intellectual sparkle.”

Anglo-Hellenic Review

 “Beautifully produced and lavishly illustrated. . . . The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture is an exciting book—provocative in approach, theoretically sophisticated, and packed with lots of interesting ideas and observations. . . . Neer has . . . succeeded in giving us a very rich and suggestive vocabulary for describing what these wonderful statues do and how they affect their viewers, and he may well succeed in transforming our way of seeing Archaic and Classical Greek sculpture. And that is a significant contribution indeed.”

Art Bulletin

“This is quite possibly the most important book on Classical Greek sculpture in modern times. The author argues his theses magnificently and backs them up with dazzling scholarship. . . . The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture will undoubtedly change the way Classical sculpture is viewed and understood, and it will endure for a long time to come.”

Visual Anthropology Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: An Apology for Style

1 Wonders Taken for Signs
2 The Speed of Light
3 Diaphanous Figures
4 Myths of the Inner
5 Space and Politics

Coda: The Benefits of Hindsight

List of Abbreviations
General Index
Index Locorum

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