Although Ancient Egypt has always influenced artists that had access to its artifacts, there are two periods in Western history when Ancient Egyptian art was very popular. These are known as “Egyptian Revival” or “Egyptomania”.
After Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, early 1800s
Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were fans of Ancient Egypt, but it was really Napoleon who started the early 1800s Egyptomania. Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt started in 1798 and ultimately ended in defeat by the British, but was nonetheless an inspirational boon to European and North American artists, furniture designers, and architects. In a brilliant move, Napoleon brought along a team of 160 scientists, scholars, and artists to document the wonders to be found in Egypt.
However, it took a long while for the public to learn of what the team saw. The product of the expedition, Description de l’Egypte (Description of Egypt) was published from 1809 to 1826.
In the 1800s, countless buildings, jewelry, furniture, and works of art were either heavily influenced by Ancient Egypt or just outright copies of surviving artifacts.
This Egyptian Revival didn’t actually end, because Ancient Egyptian artifacts were discovered throughout the 1800s, but was bolstered by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.
Tutankhamun’s Tomb, 1922
The bold lines and colors of Ancient Egyptian art were an essential aspect of Art Deco (see my post about Art Deco, too). The art movement had its origins in the early 1900s but really took off in the 1920s and stayed a popular art style through the 1940s. I’m not going to say that Ancient Egypt was the only inspiration for Art Deco, because other ancient art was involved, but it was certainly a huge influence.