Art has always carried considerable significance in human civilization. Artworks are mostly produced after basic human needs like food, shelter, and a particular community has handled religious beliefs. This culture dawned from the Predynastic Period in Egypt between c.6000 and c. 3150 BCE. They started with making images of animals, human beings, and the gods they worshipped; the figures were inscribed on rock walls. The first images were rough, but the development and perfection of art skills ensured later developments were more elegant. They were all used to instill essential values of a culture. Balance was the most fundamental feature of the Egyptian cultural consciousness, of which art, played a significant role in keeping.
The society, in Egypt, was founded on ma’at, a concept of harmony that had been there since creating. Balance was achieved because Egyptian art reflected the supernatural world of the gods. People believed in the statues that represented their religious beliefs. Every art was crafted based on functionality; each sculpture, for instance, served as a home for a particular god. They believed these gods provided good fortunes for the society. Hence they were made to provide use. For instance, an amulet would be made so perfect and decorated with all beauties. But the real intention was not to attract people but to protect the wearer. Any other artwork, from tomb paintings, temple tableaus, home, and palace gardens, were all created with a specific purpose and to suit a certain need. It was majorly characterized by the realization of the eternal nature of life and the value of success both at personal and communal level.
The first clue of art in Egypt begins with the dynasty period. These are the earliest times of Egyptian civilization, where the value of balance, is infused in art. It can be described as the rock art from the Predynastic Period, where this value was implemented and highly held. It started from c. 3150 to c.2613 BCE. The work known as The Narmer Palette or c.3200 to 3000 BCE represents the height of this period. Art was carried through engravings on the siltstone slab, shaved as a chevron shield. It tells the story of a king who had many victories in battles. Some images may still be hard to interpret, but they all give an impression that early Egyptian art was of great significance.
During the period of c.2613 to 2181 BCE, another form of art was introduced, described as the old kingdom art. This skill developed at a time when the central government was stable and flourished in economic prosperity. A monument like the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Sphinx, and tomb/temple painting become widely used.
The old kingdom age ended with the dawn of the First Intermediate Period that was characterized by chaos and darkness. One can say this was a dark period in the history of Egypt, and art from this period is used as evidence. It was characterized by poor quality and a lack of monumental building projects. There was no strong central government, and different districts were free to develop their one art. Though there were a few pieces of fine pieces in this period, there was a huge rise in mass-produced artwork. Most of which were made from wood.
Mentuhotep II of Thebes defeated the kings of Herakleopolis, bringing an end to the First Intermediate Period and ushering in the Middle Kingdom Art (c.2061 to 2010BCE). Thebes became the capital of Egypt, but the king encouraged art from different districts, creating variety. The Tomb of Mentuhotep II stands as the best example of art in this period. It is accompanied by more beautiful paintings, frescoes, and statuary with a higher level of sophistication. Most of the art in this period feature more common people than nobility.
The middle age art gave birth to the Second Intermediate Period/New Kingdom art. This was a continuation of everything that was happening in the middle kingdom, only better. A disorganized and chaotic architecture characterizes it. However, they continued to produce paintings, sculptures, temples, reliefs, headdresses, and other items of high quality. The period starts with the reign of Theban prince, Ahmose I from c.1570 to 1069 BCE. Because the kingdom’s borders were expanding, the artists began learning and using new art forms with the influence of the metalwork of the Hittites. The bust of Nefertiti and the golden death mask of Tutankhamen are among the most famous Egyptian artwork, and they come from this period.
The third intermediate Period of Egypt (c.1069 to 525BCE) to the Late Period (525 to 332BCE) represents the most stable central government. The art is still of good quality, but it was affected by the times and lack of enough resources. It is the same period the Persians invaded Egypt coming along with their culture and art. Later, between 323 and 30BCE, the influence of Greek culture created another art that seemed new to the region. The combination of Greek and Egyptian gods gave birth to Roman Egypt (30BCE to 646 CE) with the same model of art observed. Romans used the older Egyptian themes and methods to adapt to Egyptian gods, which is why we find Roman tomb paintings that follow precepts from the ancient kingdom.
The art of later Egyptian cultures came to influence European understanding significantly. The techniques and styles from the old kingdom were held for more than 1000 years across the world until the late 19th century. It was not until artists like the Futurists of Italy begun breaking from this old art that we can see variations coming up. During the early 20th century CE, Modern Art was introduced in an attempt to force people to change their perception of the old art. Some of the most prominent artists in this period include Picasso and Duchamp, who have come up with their preconceptions about art and life in general. They have broken from the past style and technique, creating newer compositions, many not withholding the values of real ancient art. Egypt, through the ages, has remained one of the most prominent cultures for artistic references and shall remain so for generations despite these alterations.
Feb 24, 2020