Ancient art includes three important periods.
Cave Paintings 1500BC
Some of the oldest known forms of art can be found in caves, notably the Lascaux network of caves found in South West France. These Paleolithic wall paintings and engravings depict animals including horses, bison, cattle and deer. Man is often depicted in a hunter. The wall paintings vary enormously in size. Some are much larger than real life where as others are quite small. The pigments used are natural birth colours mixed from dyes found in the local area.
It is believed that the cave artists used soot from their torches for their drawings and used reds and yellow pigments created from minerals found in the ground to colour their images.
Minoan Art 3000 – 1100BC
The centre of the Minoan civilisation was the Palace of Minos at Knossos in Crete. A famous fresco depicting what appears to be a bullfight was excavated from the ruins of the Palace of Minos. Only fragments remained but these fragments have been pieced together to reveal three acrobats, two girls and the darker skinned man who appear to be jumping over a magnificent bull.
Fragments of other Minoan artwork have been found. Generally the Minoans took their inspiration from the world and nature around them. The Minoans were a proud seafaring nation and much of Minoan art features the oceans and creatures that live in the sea such as fish and dolphins.
The figures in the bull fresco are are slim, elegant with thin waists, a style typical of the Minoan period.
Egyptian Art 1575 – 1087BC
The mask of Tutankhamen is perhaps the most famous example of Egyptian art. Tutankhamen was a relatively unimportant boy king who ruled for just nine years. Even so, his tomb was filled with unimaginable treasures such as golden chariots, jewellery, gems and ornaments made from precious metals.
In their art, the Egyptians tended to favour drawing over colour. Much of their artwork can be found in the tombs of their dead. Archaeologists now know that many living Egyptians had murals in their homes and these were often created with rich colours in a painterly style. Sadly only small fragments of these Egyptian murals remain.
Much Egyptian art is presented as standardised forms often merging with symbols. Each subject was drawn in a way that would make it most easily identifiable. People were represented as small or large depending on their social status. Human heads are usually drawn in profile. However eyes are drawn from the front. Egyptian art is often characterised by having no perspective. Everything appears two-dimensional.