By Souren Melikian
The admirable show, “Dawn of Egyptian Art” put together at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Diana Craig Patch, reveals a world of seething artistic creation headed in multiple directions. Much of it bears no recognizable connection to the statuary and objects from Egypt under its historic dynasties.
The most startling revelation is the simultaneous existence by the end of the fourth millennium B.C. of pure abstraction, highly stylized figuration and representational art close to nature.
A large earthenware vessel from Naqada, a site north of Luxor in Upper Egypt, is thus painted with some abstract motifs above a group of simplified human figures. Around and below them, desert goats are accurately rendered with their characteristic twisted horns. The vessel was created around 3300-3200 B.C.
During the centuries that preceded it, Egyptian artists had been exploring radically different avenues.
A stone jar carved between 3650 and 3300 B.C. displays a stunning aptitude at reducing animal form to near abstraction, with a surreal twist that anticipates 20th-century avant-garde art. With its round eyes and curving tusks, it conjures the image of an elephant. The image conveys a distinct sense of hilarity. This comes out even more definitely in a gray stone palette shaped as an animal. To Ms. Patch, this is a lion. Others might be tempted to see it as a hippopotamus with its massive back and enormous head.
Read full article: NYTimes – The Roots of Art in Ancient Egypt