Difference Between Hellenistic and Classical Art

Art is a form of expression of curating ideas and glorifying a civilization. It immortalizes the then time and takes a viewer back to experience the written texts in history books.

Art not only affects society, the future but also gets affected by time. Art is also a form of communication that facilitates to educate about the history and significance of certain things.

It has the power to influence minds and thoughts, a written manuscript or texts is one thing but how life would have been lived comes naturally through the sculptures, paintings, and artifacts.

Ancient Greek art is known for its elaborate and well-thought sculptures of human anatomy. They are the only surviving art from Greece apart from some pottery.

The Greek sculpting saw tremendous change moving from one period to the other. The artists became more skilled and expressive and that reflected in their artworks as well.

The two significant periods in Greek art history are the Classical period and Hellenistic period, both periods registered their names in the textbooks for their perfection in depicting proportionate, idealized figures.

Hellenistic vs Classical Art

The difference between Hellenistic and Classical Art is in the style and transition of sculpting. The Hellenistic period saw emotions, movement of figures whereas in the Classical period there is more focus on the perfect realistic figures, the sculptures are static.

Hellenistic vs Classical Art

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonHellenistic ArtClassical Art
Time PeriodWith the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, the period lasted up to 31 BC.5th century to 4th century BC is marked as the timeline of classical art.
StyleFreedom of expressions, humanly emotions like anger, agony, sorrow, humor we’re portrayed.Rules and conventions are kept in mind, the sculptor focussed on creating idealized static figures.
BodyBody movements and the details like the bulging of muscles can be noticed with dynamic poses.The body showed no motion or dynamics at all.
FaceThe face was realistic, exhibiting emotions.The sculptures in the period are expressionless.
Art SubjectThe art subject could be anyone in the Hellenistic times, poor, rich, young. It showed more humanly figures with a realistic approach.Subjects do not appear as humans but as gods. They are of great importance.

What is Hellenistic Art?

The Hellenistic art period begins in 323, after the death of Alexander the Great, it is an evolved version of the concepts of the classical period and it follows the period with modernity and realism.

The Hellenistic art style portrayed human anatomy but with a realistic approach, freedom of expression could be noticed which emerged from the way societal notions evolved at that time. Emotions like happiness, anger, agony, sadness could be noticed in the figures from head to toe. 

The body movements are evident from each sculpture, the sculptor worked on portraying fine details, the expansion and contraction of muscles were well executed with torsos twisted, the formation of biceps, or calf muscles.

With the expressive faces, the art subjects started being anyone which was not the case during the Classical art period. Works like Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace which were later discovered and dated back to the period show the details of drapes and body of work.

hellenistic art

What is Classical Art?

The classical art period began in the 5th century after the end of the Archaic period which keeps a great importance in Greek art history.

Classical art began with the idea to study the anatomy of human forms, the early Classical art period also popularly called the Severe style which can be seen in the Temple of God Zeus, the drapes were plain. The period saw an evolution in itself from Severe style to High Classical.

The figures are known for their proportion, balance, and harmony.

The sculptures were static with little or no motion at all, the bodies were mostly rigid. More number of idealized figures and the important personalities at that time were represented, the art subjects couldn’t be a common person.

Emotionless figures with no expression in the eyes or face can be noticed in almost every figure. The Discuss Thrower is one of the examples of this period.

classical art

Main Differences Between Hellenistic and Classical Art

  1. The main difference between Hellenistic and Classical Art is that the Hellenistic period which came much later than the Classical period shows the evolution in style and details, the human anatomy is well-read and portrayed in the Hellenistic period than that in the classical times.
  2. The Hellenistic art period started in 323 BC and ended around 31 BC whereas the Classical art period starts way ahead in the 5th century BC.
  3. The Hellenistic art style was expressive, maybe because the art was much evolved, bodily movements and with that, the expansion and contraction of muscles can be noticed, however, the classical period had static idealized figures that barely felt humane but godly.
  4. The faces in the figures of the Hellenistic period were human-like, expressive, exhibiting emotions like happiness, sorrow, agony but the Classical figures show expressionless faces.
  5. The art subjects in the Hellenistic art period could be anyone, from any class, rich-poor, whereas when it comes to the Classical period, the godly figures and the important figures were portrayed.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/505328
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/classical-quarterly/article/image-and-ritual-reflections-on-the-religious-appreciation-of-classical-art/A0571E4E2CDD44F2DA9F8D24E4A0BB35
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