The Counter Culture and Akhenaten Essay

The art of Akhenaten’s period represented a fashion of alienation and art of the counter culture. It can easily be contrasted to the art of the new kingdom before the Eighteenth Dynasty. When Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti created this new empire, they changed tradition, however more importantly they changed the style of the art. Together they were ale to redefine their art by giving it a new purpose, as well as the art of the counter culture.

The Art of the New kingdom was all about propaganda and a focus on the empire, and when Akhenaten came into power, he reformed the art to relate to Aton, his one and only god, and his life. The Egyptian style of art of the New Kingdom, before Akhenaten’s period, had many rules much different from the ones Akhenaten created. Everyone in the New Kingdom was aware of these rules. These rules consisted of (but were not limited to): statues having hands on their knees when seated or the men having to be painted darker and/or larger than the women.

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During this period, the regulations usually stayed the same, mostly because no one wanted anything different and there was no resistance of the current policies. This art was considered to be beautiful from the beginning until the end of this time period. For thousands of years no one ever had a problem with Akhenaten’s? art or the traditions followed until the Eighteenth Dynasty, when Akhenaten came to power. He did not want to bow down to G-ds of the moon or of death because the only G-d he believed in was Aton, the G-d of the sun (Gombrich 41).

This determined the beginning of the counter culture. Akhenaten broke from tradition and started his own empire in a place called El-Amarna. Akhenaten’s goal was to completely reform the religion of Egypt, and changing the religion meant changing traditions, which led to changing the art (Sporre 60). In many stories in history, there seems to be some form of rebel or protest and this is what is shown from the development of Akhenaten’s empire. He did not agree with the laws enforced, nor did he want to pray to a G-d he did not believe in.

He cannot really, however, be blamed for wanting to reform. He took his ideas and beliefs and brought them to a new town and created his own culture. Akhenaten went out there, created a cult of the sun and dedicated all of his art and architecture towards it. Previously, the art of the New Kingdom had rules and styles that had to be abided by but Akhenaten disobeyed theses rules and made his art more realistic. It is said that the art that Akhenaten had started creating must have shocked the Egyptians of the New Kingdom because of how different they were from the usual art.

Pharaohs were then portrayed as huge statues, and at that point, Akhenaten began to create pictures of him with family or statues of what he actually looks like, as an ugly man. He did this because he wanted “artists to portray him in all his human frailty or, perhaps, he was so convinced of his unique importance as a prophet that he insisted on a true likeness” (Gombrich 41). Another way that he changed the art was by displaying him and his wife Nefertiti, as the same size. They were not drawn or sculpted as lighter or darker than each other or the man being bigger.

Akhenaten did not agree with the rules of the old art and wanted to make them much less strict and perfect, and wanted to make them more real (Gombrich 41). Instead of making the royal family look more beautiful, Akhenaten made sure the exact opposite was shown in their portraits. They were represented with elongated skulls, pear-shaped bodies, skinny torsos and full hips, stomachs and thighs (Spence). The art changed from stiff and restricted to optimistic and playful images of their family. One of the biggest differences was shown in their architecture.

For the New kingdom, the architecture was set on believing in the G-d of the moon. However, in the town of El-Amarna, the architecture was created with open spaces in order to let in the rays of the sun to respect the Aton (Sporre 71). The art changed to respect the Aton but also because Akhenaten did not believe in the other, or multiple, G-ds (he was monotheistic) therefore he did not like the art or traditions that was forced upon him. The whole idea of men being perfect and better then woman changed within Akhenaten’s era.

Him and his wife were equal and portrayed equally in the sculptures and paintings; some might even say that Nefertiti was feared more then him, showing a substantial rise in women’s role and position in their society. Amarna is known as the royal family of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and usually in Egyptian art, the royal family is represented formally in sculptures and paintings. Akhenaten made sure that this was not the case. Him and his family would be represented in a much less formal manner.

Amarna art is considered to be the most naturalistic and realistic art of Egyptian time. The purpose of the art being so real was to be able to literally read the images and to be able to connect to the royal family on a more personal level. The art of this era was mostly images that seemed like snapshots of the everyday life of the king, queen and their family (Montserrat 44). One of Akhenaten’s main purposes of art was to show that he was changing tradition in a grand manner and the best way to do it was through the art.

Akhenaten changes the art drastically from being exaggerated to real, and tones down the level of unrealistic portrayals. The art changed from displaying scenes of royalty of only the king to ordinary everyday scenes (Spence). Akhenaton’s purpose of changing the art in a grand manner was because he wanted to make an impact on people’s lives now, and in the future. He did so by making his art memorable, seeing as it is something that everyone will see and even when he dies. His art will remain a representation of Akhenaten and what he stood for.

The main purpose of changing the art from a form of propaganda to a form of reality was to show how powerful he was and to show the people that he can create this empire on his own. He shows them that they did not need to do everything the priests said. Akhenaten changed the art for the purpose of respecting Aton. It is now evident that the art of Akhenaten’s period truly did represent the art of the counter culture and an alienation fashion. It can easily be contrasted to the art of the new kingdom before the Eighteenth Dynasty because Akhenaten changes the rules.

He displayed woman and family as equals. When Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, created this new empire, they changed tradition but more importantly they changed the style of the art. They changed the art into more realistic and personal view so people today can relate to the royal family. They changed architecture into being more open to respect the G-d of Aton. Together they gave the art the counter culture and a new purpose. This purpose was to change things in a great way and make a difference, so that they can be remembered forever.

Works Cited

Gombrich, E. H. The Story of Art. 12th Edition. New York, N. Y. Phaidon Press Limited, 1972. Print. Montserrat, Dominic. Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt. New York. Routledge, 2000. Print. Spence, Kate. “Akhenaten and the Amarna Period. ” BBC. Published on BBC History. 17 Feb. 2011. Web. Oct. 2012. Sporre, Dennis J. The Creative Impulse. 2nd Edition. Englewood Cliffs, N. J. Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1990. Print. http://www. bbc. co. uk/history/ancient/egyptians/akhenaten_01. shtml