Wall painting was little more than an adjunct of architecture, and probably grew out of sculpture. The early statues were colored, and on the wall the chisel, like the flint of Primitive Man, cut the outline of the figure. At first only this cut was filled with color, producing what has been called the koil- anaglyphic. In the final stage the line was made by drawing with chalk or coal on prepared stucco, and the color, mixed with gum-water (a kind of distemper), was applied to the whole enclosed space. Substantially the same method of painting was used upon other materials, such as wood, mummy cartonnage, papyrus ; and in all its thousands of. years of existence Egyptian painting never advanced upon or varied to any extent this one method of work.,
HISTORIC PERIODS: Egyptian art may be traced back as far as the Third or Fourth Memphitic dynasty of kings. The date is uncertain, but it is somewhere near 3,500 B.C. of empire, at that time, was located at Memphis in Lower Egypt, and it is among the remains of this Memphitic Period that the earliest and best painting is found. In fact, all Egyptian art, literature, language, civilization, seem at their highest point of perfection in the period farthest removed from us. In that earliest age the finest portrait busts were cut, and the painting, found chiefly in the tombs and on the mummy-cases, was the attempted realistic with not a little of spirited individuality. The figure was rather short and squat, the face a little squarer than the conventional type afterward adopted, the action better, and the positions, attitudes, and gestures more truthful to local characteristics. The domestic scenes—hunting, fishing, tilling, grazing—were all shown in the one flat, planeless, shadowless method of representation, but with better drawing and color and more variety than appeared later on. Still, more or less conventional types were used, even in this early time, and continued to be used all through Egyptian history.
The Memphitic Period comes down to the eleventh dynasty. In the fifteenth dynasty comes the invasion of the so-called Hyksos, or Shepherd Kings. Little is known of the Hyksos, and, in painting, the next stage is the Theban Period, which culminated in Thebes, in Upper Egypt, with Rameses II., of the nineteenth dynasty. Painting had then changed somewhat both in subject and character. The time was one of great temple- and palace-building, and, though the painting of genre subjects in tombs and sepulchres continued, the general body of art became more monumental and subservient to architecture. Painting was put to work on temple- and palace-walls, depicting processional scenes, either religious or monarchical, and vast in extent. The figure, too, changed slightly. It became
longer, slighter, with a pronounced nose, thick lips, and long eye. From constant repetition, rather than any set rule or canon, this figure grew conventional, and was reproduced as a type in a mechanical and unvarying manner for hundreds of years. It was, in fact, only a variation from the original Egyptian type seen in the tombs of the earliest dynasties. There was a great quantity of art produced during the Theban Period, and of a graceful, decorative character, but it was rather monotonous by repetition and filled with established mannerisms. The Egyptian really never was a free worker, never an artist expressing himself ; but, for his day, a skilled mechanic following time-honored example. In the
Saitic Period the seat of empire was once more in Lower Egypt, and art had visibly declined with the waning power of the country. All spontaneity seemed to have passed out of it, it was repetition of repetition by poor workmen, and the simplicity and purity of the technic were corrupted by foreign influences. With the Alexandrian epoch Egyptian art came in contact with Greek methods, and grew imitative of the new art, to the detriment of its own native character. Eventually it was entirely lost in the art of the Greco-Roman world. It was never other than conventional, produced by a method almost as unvarying as that of the hieroglyphic writing, and in this very respect characteristic and reflective of the unchanging Orientals. Technically it had its shortcomings, but it conveyed the proper information to its beholders and was serviceable and graceful decoration for Egyptian days.