Ancient Egyptian art
What is art?
Modern observes tend to carry prejudicial views, obscuring their appreciation of Ancient Egypt art. They tend to assume, for example, the superiority of perspective, naturalism, individuality portraiture, and authored works. In order to set such prejudices aside, it may be helpful to approach Ancient Egypt with the concept of art as spectrum.
Definition of art: at its broadest, we could define art as the self-conscious use of material (similarly, we could define literature as the self-conscious use of language).
By this definition art is one area of the spectrum of all human production aligned between the poles of self-conscious and not (‘taken for granted’, the daily or mundane). Applying the idea of a spectrum may make it easier to understand how different societies and individuals locate the border between art and non-art (for example art and craft) at different points along the spectrum. Note that society tends to dictate the border, although this can be hotly debated as in the case of contemporary art. Above all, it is a matter of words – some languages have different terms for different parts of the spectrum, and any language use can change over time (Latin ars to our art).
Copyright © 2000 University College London. All rights reserved.