Art has always been part of the royal life in Egypt. All the Pharaohs who ruled Egypt in the past all through to the last pharaoh loved artwork and this was seen through the various artistic works that were either discovered by archeologist or were found together with the mummified bodies of the archeologists. From the paintings to the statues to the hieroglyphics to the pottery work art was the Egyptians way of life. Symbolism was used in art to establish a sense of law and order for example the regalia of the pharaoh was used to show that he had the power and authority to maintain order.
Ancient Egyptians created artworks for different purposes and functions. However, ancient Egyptian art was purposely done for political and religious purposes. For over 3500 hundred years i.e. during the pre-dynastic all through to the early dynastic and the old kingdom, artist followed strict ideologies with regards to artistic work and were for years able to do their artistic works without any external influence.
The strictness in the style of artwork meant that the purpose of the work was done with clarity and precision that it so deserved. The artistic standards included art works that had simple lines and shapes. The artwork also had flat areas of color that also had flat projection of figures without focusing on the spatial depth (Smith & Simpson 1981).
Ancient Egyptians also focused on decorative arts. This meant that jewelry such as gold was used especially in statues of the royal families. Granulations, soldering and wire making was practiced all with the aim of providing the artistic decorative feels. Semi-precious stones such as camelian jasper, turquoise and agate were used. For additional color and texture, faience and glass was used. The old Kingdom had evidence of art on the walls of the tombs, temples, steatite and coffins. Statues were also a form of art where the artists made carvings of eminent people in the society like the royal family.
Royal artwork was done using stone carvings in the carving of statues and fine reliefs. Though they were seen as expensive and some of the artwork was sometimes done on wood. For the paintings red and yellow ochre was used which was readily available from the minerals such as the iron ores. Colors blue and green were extracted from copper ores and soot and charcoal was used so as to acquire color black, for the color white, limestone was used.
For preservation the paints were mixed with gum Arabic which acted as a binder and pressed into cake and if needed the cakes would be moistened so that they revert back to their original form (Mieroop, 2010). Pharaohs used reliefs for the recording of victories attained when they go into battle.
These were cut outs for example on the walls that depicted the pharaoh in a battlefield that led to a subsequent win. Reliefs were also used by the royalty for royal decrees and to depict religious scenes. It is also in the old Kingdom that the concept of hieroglyphics writing was embraced and reached its sophistication. The art works and crafts improved and developed to a high level of professionalism. King Djoser of the third dynasty is celebrated for having contributed to the building of the step building located at Saqqara. Other artists such as Cheops, Mycerinus and Chepren are also accredited for pushing forward the growth of art during this period (Smith & Simpson 1981).
The Middle kingdom saw the introduction of wooden and clay art works. Such kind of artistic works was found in tombs. Egyptians believed in the after-life and for example when a Pharaoh died such artwork was done in his tomb to duplicate the activities of the pharaoh in the afterlife and the subjects that would serve him. It was therefore common to see carvings of servants, laborers, houses and boats in the tomb of a pharaoh. Over time, the strictness of the artist of the Ancient times to follow their own style gradually waned off as evidence of influences of the Minoan style and the Amarna art were quickly adopted by the Egyptian artist (Robins, 2008).
The New Kingdom of Egypt saw a renewed interest in the architectural and artistic venues. The kings and the queens of this period such as Queen Hatshipsut and king Khenaton showed great interest in art and this led to artistic revival which had decline after the middle kingdom. The paintings of the new period denoted boldness of design and controlled vitality. The sculptures similarly denoted bulk, personality and solidity.
This was a great improvement from the Egyptian classic style of the Middle kingdom. In the period between 1314-1085 B. C. attempts were made by artists to go back to the homogeneity that earlier characterized Egyptian painting but it was not possible since such sculptures had come to be viewed as monotonous and overbearing save for those that depicted battle scenes.
In 1085-730 the artistic scene of Egypt witnessed a decline due to the continuous repetition of previous artistry and style. The Saite period 730-663 B.C. there is an attempt to return to the old artistic style of the old Kingdom (The Ancient Egyptians, 2011).Subsequent invasions by Assyrians and Persians in Egypt did not have an impact on the Egyptian art and even under Ptolemaic dynasty from 332-30B. C. the art world in Egypt did not submit to the pressure of adopting the Hellenic concepts of Art. Ancient architectural traditions such as temples of Isis and Horus at Philae and Idfu respectively retained their strength (Robins, 2008).
After the New Kingdom, there was a rapid change in the artistic style of the first millennium. Egyptian art began to absorb new art ventures and at the same time retain the original art ways of the Egyptians. After the conquest by Alexander the Great the Pharaoic nature of art was adopted so as to satisfy the needs of the native Egyptians that wanted to hold onto the old art ways and those that had acquired a preference for Greek and roman arts. The era of the New Kingdom also saw the introduction of Fayoum Mummy paintings. These were paintings that were done with focus to frontality, which is paintings and drawings that were facing straight ahead.
Most three dimensional representations, standing or kneeling were like this. Most of this art works had a religious feel and mostly depicted gods, kings and the dead. Such artifacts and sculptors were used in ceremonial activities so as to indicate the presence of that god or the dead person. The New Kingdom also saw a rise in temple architecture. The Egyptians constructed two types of temples, the cult temples for the recipients of the daily cults and the funerary temples for the dead kings.
The cult temple of Neuserre has distinct art work with the limestone and alabaster altar. It also has fine reliefs that have covered the corridors. Cult’s temples due to their divine purposes also had lots of statues of the Pharaohs as they were considered semi gods in Egypt.Funerary temples were the place where the mummified bodies of the pharaoh were put so as to proceed with their journey to the afterlife. In the tomb of Ramses the 3rd, the tombs walls have mural artistic decorations. It also had drawings of the military campaigns of the dead pharaoh (Mieroop, 2010).
Art has always been part of Egypt’s culture ever since the pre-dynastic times. Egyptians used art to tell and preserve their history. To-date Egypt is still surrounded by the beauty of art. The pyramids are still standing tall and the monuments are still well preserved. This is so because of the hot weather that dominated the country. Statues of all kinds surround the entrance of these pyramids and are also found inside.
Any artistic individual will note the similarity of these statues in terms of their geometrical regularity. This art feature is characteristic of all Egyptian art from the Ancient times to the new millennium. Egyptian art can be described as cubed and constrained and its sole purpose was to keep alive the history of the individuals and give pharaohs eternal life.
Amarna Art: art work characterized by the sense of activity and movement of images in a painting. Style adopted in Egypt after the reign of Akhenaton in the 18th Dynasty.
Cubism Art: style of paining and sculptor that involved use of formal structure and reduction of ordinary forms into their geometrical equivalence.
Fayoum Portraits: life like paintings that were once bandaged over the faces of mummies.
Frontality: an art style that involves making the painting or the sculptor faces straight ahead.
Gum Arabic: also called gum acacia which was natural gum made from hardened sap of the acacia tree. It was traditionally used in printing and paint production where it was used as a binder for water color paintings
Hellenic Concepts: Art work with a sense of the Greek touch
Hieroglyphic: A kind of writing where the symbols used represented the objects, it was commonly known as the language of the Gods.
Minoan Style: art works that involved the use of bronze
Reliefs: form of artwork that involves the raising of the sculptured material from the background. It is done through the chiseling away of the background to create the art sculptor desired.
Steatite: a type of mineral used in the carving of sculptors, also known as soapstone
The Bust of Nefertiti by the Sculptor Thutmose
Wall painting of a man kneeling before Osiris, Found in the tomb of Amennakt retrieved from http://historylink101.net/egypt-1/rf-engravings.htm on 24th March 2011
A picture of a wall engraving retrieved from http://historylink101.net/egypt-1/rf-engravings.htm on 24th March 2011
The Ancient Egyptians (2011) retrieved from http://www.4to40.com/history/print.asp?p=The Ancient Egyptians on 24th March 2011
Mieroop, M. (2010) A History of Ancient Egypt. John Wiley and Sons
Robins, G. (2008). The art of ancient Egypt. Harvard University Press
Smith, W. & Simpson, W. (1981). The art and architecture of ancient Egypt. Penguin Books