The Severe style, or Early Classical style,  was the dominant idiom of Greek sculpture in the period ca. 490 to 450 BCE. It marks the breakdown of the canonical forms of archaic art and the transition to the greatly expanded vocabulary and expression of the classical moment of the late 5th century. It was an international style found at many cities in the Hellenic world and in a variety of media including: bronze sculpture in the round, stelae, and architectural relief. The style perhaps realized its greatest fulfillment in the metopes of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia.
The term severe style was first coined by Gustav Kramer in his Über den Styl und die Herkunft der bemahlten griechischen Thongefäße ("On the style and the origins of painted Greek pottery", 1837, Berlin) in reference to the first generation of red figure vase painters; since Vagn Poulsen’s 1937 study Der strenge Stil ("The Severe Style"), the name has become exclusively associated with sculpture.
There is no firm chronology for the Severe style, the dating of early 5th century BCE sculpture is approximate and consequently its first appearance has been conjectured to be at some point between 525 and 480 BCE.  The one exception to this general rule of uncertainty is the Tyrannicide group; a replacement for the bronze created by Antenor in 514 to commemorate the assassins of the tyrant Hipparchus was sculpted by Kritios and Nesiotes and dated in an inscription of 477/6 BCE. This piece, now known only from Roman copies  preserves the poses and facial features familiar from archaic art and combines it with a novel treatment of multiple viewpoints, feeling for mass, and anatomical observation that distinguishes it as one of several Athenian transitional works. Another is the Kritian boy , c. 480 BCE,  whose distribution of weight onto one leg, lowered right hip, and inclination of head and shoulders exceeds the formulas of the late Archaic kouroi marks a step toward the greater naturalism and individualization of the Classical – as B. S. Ridgway puts it: no longer a type but a subject.
The depredations of war and the sumptuary laws of Solon ensured that very little sculpture was practiced at Athens in the first half of the 5th century, instead we have to look to others cities to trace the development of the Severe style. We can observe the general characteristics of the period on its greatest masterpiece the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, attributed to the Olympia Master. Here we find a simplicity of forms, especially in dress and the absence of decoration, a feeling of heaviness both in the gravity of the body and the "doughy" cloth of the peplos. Indeed, this era sees a shift from the use of the Doric chiton to the Ionic peplos whose irregular groupings and folds better express the contours of the underlying body. We can also witness on the pediments of the temple the slight pout typical of this time where the upper lip projects a little over the lower and a volume to the eyelids, a striking departure from the fixed Archaic smile of the 6th century and suggestive perhaps of the brooding pathos also typical of the idiom. There is further experimentation with the expression of emotion on the metopes of the temple depicting the labors of Herakles, an experiment not pursued by later Classical art.
Brunilde S. Ridgway identifies six traits that might serve to define the style:
The Severe artists whose names have come down to us include the collaborators Kritios and Nesiotes; Pythagoras; Calamis; and most notably Myron of Eleutherae. Myron was a late practitioner of the style active in the 450s and 440s and the author of two identifiable sculptures that have survived in copies: his Discobolus and the Athena Marsyas group. Both seemingly original in composition, these works capture several of the chief characteristics of the style in its feeling for the dramatic moment, its rhythm and balance of masses, and the embodiment of feeling through the pregnant gesture.
Why this naturalizing trend should emerge in early fifth-century Greek art has been a matter of much scholarly speculation. Renate Thomas summarizes the contending views thus:
The significance of the Late Archaic period remains unclear. Is it already a response to the awakening sense of personal value, which will then be held back during the Severe Style through a self-imposed discipline (Schefold), or has there developed, since the Late Archaic period, a new and freer spirit, which, however, becomes clearly visible only in the Severe or even in the Classical style (G. v. Lucken, E. Langlotz, B. Schweitzer)? Did the "Discovery of the Mind" in the sixth century produce two different effects (Schachermeyr), one of which produces new sets of laws through reflection upon traditional norms? Or does only the strong freedom of movement in the figurative art of the Late Archaic period, the self-confident recognition of personal individuality, go back to a change in the sixth century, while the causes of the "purified world of forms" of the Severe Style are others? 
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The Parthenon is a former temple on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patroness. Construction started in 447 BC when the Delian League was at the peak of its power. It was completed in 438 BC, although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC.
Contrapposto is an Italian term that means "counterpoise". It is used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot, so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs in the axial plane.
Ancient Greek architecture came from the Greek-speaking people whose culture flourished on the Greek mainland, the Peloponnese, the Aegean Islands, and in colonies in Anatolia and Italy for a period from about 900 BC until the 1st century AD, with the earliest remaining architectural works dating from around 600 BC.
The Doric order was one of the three orders of ancient Greek and later Roman architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian. The Doric is most easily recognized by the simple circular capitals at the top of columns. Originating in the western Doric region of Greece, it is the earliest and, in its essence, the simplest of the orders, though still with complex details in the entablature above.
A kouros is the modern term given to free-standing ancient Greek sculptures that first appear in the Archaic period in Greece and represent nude male youths. In Ancient Greek kouros means "youth, boy, especially of noble rank". Although Kouroi have been found in many ancient Greek territories, they were especially prominent in Attica and Boiotia. The term kouros was first proposed for what were previously thought to be depictions of Apollo by V.I. Leonardos in 1895 in relation to the youth from Keratea, and adopted by Henri Lechat as a generic term for the standing male figure in 1904. Such statues are found across the Greek-speaking world; the preponderance of these were found in sanctuaries of Apollo with more than one hundred from the sanctuary of Apollo Ptoion, Boeotia, alone. These free-standing sculptures were typically marble, but the form is also rendered in limestone, wood, bronze, ivory and terracotta. They are typically life-sized, though early colossal examples are up to 3 meters tall.
A peplos is a body-length garment established as typical attire for women in ancient Greece by circa 500 BC, during the late Archaic and Classical period. It was a long, rectangular cloth with the top edge folded down about halfway, so that what was the top of the rectangle was now draped below the waist, and the bottom of the rectangle was at the ankle. The peplos was draped and open on one side of the body, like the Doric chiton.The garment was then gathered about the waist and the folded top edge pinned over the shoulders. The folded-down top of the cloth provided the appearance of a second piece of clothing.
Greek temples were structures built to house deity statues within Greek sanctuaries in ancient Greek religion. The temple interiors did not serve as meeting places, since the sacrifices and rituals dedicated to the respective deity took place outside them, within the wider precinct of the sanctuary, which might be large. Temples were frequently used to store votive offerings. They are the most important and most widespread building type in Greek architecture. In the Hellenistic kingdoms of Southwest Asia and of North Africa, buildings erected to fulfil the functions of a temple often continued to follow the local traditions. Even where a Greek influence is visible, such structures are not normally considered as Greek temples. This applies, for example, to the Graeco-Parthian and Bactrian temples, or to the Ptolemaic examples, which follow Egyptian tradition. Most Greek temples were oriented astronomically.
The sculpture of ancient Greece is the main surviving type of fine ancient Greek art as, with the exception of painted ancient Greek pottery, almost no ancient Greek painting survives. Modern scholarship identifies three major stages in monumental sculpture in bronze and stone: the Archaic, Classical (480–323) and Hellenistic. At all periods there were great numbers of Greek terracotta figurines and small sculptures in metal and other materials.
The Parthenon frieze is the high-relief Pentelic marble sculpture created to adorn the upper part of the Parthenon’s naos. It was sculpted between c. 443 and 437 BC, most likely under the direction of Pheidias. Of the 160 meters (524 ft) of the original frieze, 128 meters (420 ft) survives—some 80 percent. The rest is known only from the drawings attributed to French artist Jacques Carrey in 1674, thirteen years before the Venetian bombardment that ruined the temple.
The Temple of Zeus at Olympia was an ancient Greek temple in Olympia, Greece, dedicated to the god Zeus. The temple, built in the second quarter of the fifth century BC, was the very model of the fully developed classical Greek temple of the Doric order.
Classical sculpture refers generally to sculpture from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, as well as the Hellenized and Romanized civilizations under their rule or influence, from about 500 BC to around 200 AD. It may also refer more precisely a period within Ancient Greek sculpture from around 500 BC to the onset of the Hellenistic style around 323 BC, in this case usually given a capital "C". The term "classical" is also widely used for a stylistic tendency in later sculpture, not restricted to works in a Neoclassical or classical style.
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Kritios was an Athenian sculptor, probably a pupil of Antenor, working in the early 5th century BCE, whose manner is on the cusp of the Late Archaic and the Severe style of Early Classicism in Attica. He was the teacher of Myron. With Nesiotes (Νησιώτης,) Kritios made the replacement of the Tyrannicides ("Tyrant-killers") group by Antenor, which had been carried off by the Persians in the first stage of the Greco-Persian Wars. The new group stood in the Agora of Athens and its composition is known from Roman copies.
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Kore is the modern term given to a type of free-standing ancient Greek sculpture of the Archaic period depicting female figures, always of a young age. Kouroi are the youthful male equivalent of kore statues.
The Olympia Master is the name given to the anonymous sculptor responsible for the external sculpture of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia. From what Pausanias tells us of the dates of the Temple, the Master and his workshop were active between 470 and 457 BC. The two pediments and the series of metopes ascribed to him are the paradigmatic expression of the Early Classical or Severe style of 5th century Greek sculpture.
Ancient Greek art stands out among that of other ancient cultures for its development of naturalistic but idealized depictions of the human body, in which largely nude male figures were generally the focus of innovation. The rate of stylistic development between about 750 and 300 BC was remarkable by ancient standards, and in surviving works is best seen in sculpture. There were important innovations in painting, which have to be essentially reconstructed due to the lack of original survivals of quality, other than the distinct field of painted pottery.
The Peplos Kore is a kore statue of a girl and one of the most well-known examples of Archaic Greek art. The 118 cm-high (46 in) high white marble statue was made around 530 BC and originally was colourfully painted. The statue was found, in three pieces, in an 1886 excavation north-west of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis of Athens and is now in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.
The pediments of the Parthenon are the two sets of statues in Pentelic marble originally located on the east and west facades of the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens. They were likely made by several artists, including Agoracritos. The master builder was likely Phidias.
The Euthydikos Kore is a late archaic, Parian marble statue of the kore type, c 490–480 BCE, that once stood amongst the Akropolis votive sculptures. It was destroyed during the Persian invasion of 480 BCE and found in the Perserschutt. It is named after the dedication on the base of the sculpture, “Euthydikos son of Thaliarchos dedicated [me]”. It now stands in the Acropolis Museum.