In 100 words or fewer, answer the following prompt:
Art in Egyptian Culture is different from fine art because, the art is never displayed to be viewed by people. The art is almost always buried away with an important person in their burial monument for no one but the gods to see. Art in Egyptian culture was a way to communicate with or worship the Gods in the after life. The art works usually depicted people doing something for a certain god or gods, to show the gods how good and appreciative of them they were in hopes of a better afterlife.
True of tomb art, but remember that a Late Kingdom temple like Karnak has art on the exterior pylons, too, which were for human consumption, all based on the concept of “visual utility.”
Art in Egyptian culture was not made simply for aesthetic purposes. For example, temple paintings and carvings were made in an effort to praise the gods. Burial chambers too had paintings and or carvings as well and their purpose was to provide visual utility. They are made to provide what they are depicting for the deceased in the afterlife. This is different than fine art because there is a necessity, a function to it. Nowadays billboards come to mind when I think of something in our 21st century that plays a similar role to Egyptian art. They are made by an artist, a designer but they have a specific function which is to advertise.
Maybe not quite as lofty a goal as the Egyptians, but I see your point!
Art was not used as modern art is used. It was used as a tool, a means to an end, a function – to prepare you for the afterlife. Although the art was mostly used for religious purposes, many pharaohs would commission artwork to represent their power and their worship of the Gods. This could be related to pictograms or picture signs we see all around us to show us where stations are or where bathrooms are located. These signs can also to show us what we can expect. They’re not a record of where to go, but have a utility.
A “visual” utility, one might say?
In Egyptian culture, what we view as their “art” actually served as a utility and was often not even meant to be seen. This is the case for the paintings and carvings found in tombs, which were believed to have granted the deceased blessings from the gods and given them a more favorable afterlife. In temples, “art” was used to appease and please the gods, functioning similar to food offerings. In today’s world, we have similar uses for “art”, which can be seen every time we’re driving. The road signs display images that serve a specific purpose, which is to keep us safe. These forms of “art” are different from fine art in that they are utilities, not images meant for enjoyment and pleasure.
And both the Eg. examples and our road signs provide for a certain safety of transport, one might argue!
Art in Egyptian culture wasn’t made to be seen by the public. Instead, it was made to serve a purpose for the people that commissioned it in the afterlife. Artwork could represent what they brought into the afterlife with them, or how much food they would have. It was how they communicated with the gods. Although it was mainly for this purpose, it was also a display of power. The example that comes to mind from the 21st century that’s similar is elaborate tombstones. While they’re not as sculptural as the Egyptian tombs, they tell a story. Some have prayers or Bible verses, or an image that meant something to the person, or the different titles they held like mother, father, grandmother… While Egyptian tombs illustrate the afterlife, our tombstones illustrate who they were in life. They both serve a purpose though, and aren’t examples of the type of artwork you would see in a gallery.
Tomb art was hidden from public view; New Kingdom temples were accessible from the outside. Do our contemporary tombs have a similar “utility” as the Egyptians? Same theological ends?
The Egyptian culture did create art, but did not use it the way us humans use it today. Art was used not to be shown off to the public, but for religious purposes. It was created to be put in tombs with people who died and it is to help their passage through the worlds to have for an offering and for communication to the God’s from the recently deceased. Something in the 21st century that can relate to purposes of Egyptian art is signs in a building to give direction. I am currently sitting in our athletic center and there are signs all over the place to help communicate with people to direct them where to go. Whether it is looking for the athletic trainer’s room, locker room, or the gym. These have a purpose for direction rather than just to look at like most art we view today.
Shared “visual utility”
The role of art in Egyptian culture is not the same as it is today. Egyptians used art to tell a story and to help someone who had pasted get to the after life. Their art was created for a functional purpose not just for enjoyment. This is kind of like our project boards we make for studio, technically they are art but we use them to tell a story about our work and to give information. But today we tend to define art or fine art as something that is enjoyable to look at but serves no real purpose; which is the complete opposite of Egyptian art.
While both have the same function of “storytelling,” do the Egyptian & modern examples you cite have the same kind of function beyond portrayal of a narrative?
Art in Egyptian culture was normally used for burial purposes, hidden from the yes of the public. This type of art was supposed to be used as visual utility for the dead person in their afterlife journey as a type of guidance. Fine arts is completely different from Egyptian art. Fine arts on the other hand is meant to be shown to an audience, to portray a direct message to them. In the 21st Century we can see an example of using art as a way to guide us just like the Egyptian culture did with the deceased people in using billboards that guide us to the destination we want to arrive to in the streets, highways, etc. Even though this way is not private at all like the Egyptians used to do it, it still does the same function.
“private,” how so?
Ancient Egyptians were religious people who believed in life after death; therefore, most of their artworks were funerary arts and they can be found on wall surfaces or on scroll papyrus within burial tombs. These artworks would serve the purpose of guiding the desceased into his new life. Also, ancient Egyptians artworks, both paintings and sculptures, were full of symbolisms that represent their religious beliefs. In fact, animals and other living organism were often used as symbols to depict the characters of their gods and goddesses. For instance, Horus would have the head of a falcon in order to represent the belief that he was full of wisdom.
21st c. comparison?
In Egyptian culture, art was used as a guide or literal representation for life and the afterlife. For example the paintings left by tombs in Egypt were meant to depict what the dead had and experienced in the afterlife. In Karnak the carvings in the walls served as a means to tell people where they stood and they were also used to showcase power. Something we find in the 21st century that plays a similar role to Egyptian art are maps which are meant to direct people rather than to be viewed to find beauty within them. The type of art in Egypt and such things as maps today is different from fine art because rather than being for aesthetic purposes the art is meant to provide for the needs of people.
An interesting comparison, since maps are primarily “functional,” but can be enjoyed for their aesthetic quality, as well. At least, some of them. https://dailysun.bowdoin.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/BeautifulMaps-1024×560.jpg
Egyptian art was made with to serve a religious purpose rather than for pure enjoyment. Once completed, the tomb paintings were never seen by the public. Their sole purpose was to aid the deceased in the afterlife. While a lot of care went into the crafting of these murals, and they are in fact quite beautiful, they do not constitute fine art. Fine art is meant to communicate emotion and be admired. The Egyptian burial chamber paintings are more closely related to a modern-day road-sign or an illustrated instruction manual. No matter how much care went into their craft, they function 1st and foremost as tools.
I suppose similarly, some future culture might be hanging stop signs in museums.
Ancient Egyptian art is an interesting form of art. It is not what we would typically call “fine art” or art that was made for the pleasure of the eye. Rather, Egyptian art was pictorial and told a story; every element and symbol had a meaning. The art was used much more like the pictures in a picture book. The ancient Egyptians used their “art” in the same way we tend to use digital stickers and emojis. Potentially, we could tell a whole story with symbols and figures the same way; it is not exactly an art, but a language.
And both Eg. glyphs and emojis are a shorthand for a bigger idea. Still, end use/significance is rather different between them!
Egyptian art served a purpose, it was meant as visual representations that would help one in the afterlife. A lot of their art was not even meant to be viewed by humans and were hidden inside tombs. Egyptians believed that not only these paintings would help the pharaohs and others fed and sustained in but and guide them and please the gods. In my opinion, a form of art that has functionality in the 21st century would be road signs or utility signs like the bathroom or special needs signs. They are meant to inform us and guide us in our day to day lives.
And keep us safe!
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