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A mural is any piece of artwork painted directly on a wall, ceiling, or other large permanent surface.


Murals of sorts date to Upper Paleolithic times such as the paintings in the Chauvet Cavemarker in Ardèchemarker department of southern Francemarker(around 30.000 BC). Many ancient murals have survived in Egyptian tombs (around 3150 BC, the Minoan palaces (Middle period III of the Neopalatial period, 1700-1600 BC) and in Pompeiimarker(around 100 BC - AD 79).

In modern times the term became more well-known with the Mexicanmarker "muralista" art movement (Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, or José Orozco). There are many different styles and techniques. The best-known is probably fresco, which uses water-soluble paints with a damp lime wash, a rapid use of the resulting mixture over a large surface, and often in parts (but with a sense of the whole). The colors lighten as they dry. The marouflage method has also been used for millennia.

Murals today are painted in a variety of ways, using oil or water-based media. The styles can vary from abstract to trompe-l'œil (a French term for "fool" or "trick the eye"). Initiated by the works of mural artists like Graham Rust or Rainer Maria Latzke in the 1980s, trompe-l'oeil painting has experienced a renaissance in private and public buildings in Europe.Today, the beauty of a wall mural has become much more widely available with a technique whereby a painting or photographic image is transferred to poster paper or canvas which is then pasted to a wall surface (see wallpaper,Frescography) to give the effect of either a hand-painted mural or realistic scene.


Historical mural techniques

In the history of mural several methods have been used:

A Fresco painting, from the Italian word affresco which derives from the adjective fresco ("fresh"), describes a method, where the paint is applied on plaster on walls or ceilings.The Buon fresco technique consists of painting in pigment mixed with water on a thin layer of wet, fresh, lime mortar or plaster The pigment is then absorbed by the wet plaster; after a number of hours, the plaster dries and reacts with the air: it is this chemical reaction which fixes the pigment particles in the plaster. After this the painting stays for a long time up to centuries in fresh and brilliant colors.

"A Secco" painting is done on dry plaster (secco is "dry" in Italian). The egg (tempera), glue or oil to attach the pigment to the wall.

"Mezzo-fresco", is painted on nearly-dry plaster, which is defined by the sixteenth-century author Ignazio Pozzo as “firm enough not to take a thumb-print”, so that the pigment only penetrates slightly into the plaster. By the end of the sixteenth century this had largely displaced the buon fresco method, and was used by painters such as Gianbattista Tiepolo or Michelangelo. This technique had, in reduced form, the advantages of a secco work.


In Greco-Roman times mostly encaustic colors ground in a molten beeswax or resin binder and applied in a hot state was used.

Tempera painting is one of the oldest known methods in mural painting, In tempera the pigments are bind an albuminous medium such as egg yolk or egg white and have been diluted in water.

In 16th-century Europe, oil painting on canvas came up as an easier method for mural painting. The advantage was, that the artwork could be completed in the artist’s studio and later transported to its destination and there attached to the wall or ceiling. Oil paint can be said to be the least satisfactory medium for murals, because of its lack of brilliance in colour. Also the pigments are yellowed by the binder or are easier affected by atmospheric conditions. The canvas itself is more subject to rapid deterioration then a plaster underground.

Modern mural techniques

The development of digital wide format printers offered new time and cost effective production methods for printed murals and became an important alternative to actual, hand-painted murals in the last decade. Already existing murals can be photographed and then be reproduced in near-to-original quality . The disadvantages of pre-fabricated murals are that they are often mass produced and lack the allure and exclusivity of an original artwork. They are often not fitted to the individual wall sizes of the client and their personal ideas or wishes can not be added to the mural, unlike the Frescography technique, a digital manufacturing method (CAM) invented by Rainer Maria Latzke.Digital techniques are also used in advertisement. A "wallscape" is a large advertisement on or attached to the outside wall of a building. Wallscapes can be painted directly on the wall as a mural, or printed on vinyl and securely attached to the wall in the manner of a billboard.

Significance of murals

Murals are important in that they bring art into the public sphere. Due to the size, cost, and work involved in creating a mural, muralists must often be commissioned by a sponsor. Often it is the local government or a business, but many murals have been paid for with grants of patronage. For artists, their work gets a wide audience who otherwise might not set foot in an art gallery. A city benefits by the beauty of a work of art. Murals exist where people live and work and they can add to their daily lives.

Murals can be a relatively effective tool of social emancipation or achieving a political goal. Murals have sometimes been created against the law, or have been commissioned by local bars and coffeeshops. Often, the visual effects are an enticement to attract public attention to social issues.State-sponsored public art expressions, particularly murals, are often used by totalitarian regimes as a tool of mass-control and propaganda. However, despite the propagandist character of that works, some of them still have an artistic value.

World-famous murals can be found in Mexicomarker, New Yorkmarker, Philadelphiamarker, Belfastmarker, Derrymarker, Los Angelesmarker, Nicaraguamarker, Cubamarker and in Indiamarker. [2778] They have functioned as an important means of communication for members of socially, ethnically and racially divided communities in times of conflict. They also proved to be an effective tool in establishing a dialogue and hence solving the cleavage in the long run.The Indianmarker state Keralamarker has exclusive murals. These Kerala mural painting are on walls of Hindu temples. They can be dated from 9th century CE.

The San Bartolo murals of the Maya civilization in Guatemalamarker, are the oldest example of this art in Mesoamerica and are dated at 300 BC.

Murals and politics

famous Mexican mural movement in the 1930s brought a new prominence to murals as a social and political tool. Diego Rivera, José Orozco and David Siqueiros were the most famous artists of the movement. Between 1932 and 1940, Rivera also painted murals in San Franciscomarker, Detroitmarker, and New York Citymarker. In 1933 he completed a famous series of twenty-seven fresco panels entitled Detroit Industry on the walls of an inner court at the Detroit Institute of Artsmarker.During the McCarthyism of the 1950s, a large sign was placed in the courtyard defending the artistic merit of the murals while attacking his politics as "detestable."

In 1948 the Colombian Government hosted the IX Pan-American Conference to establish the Marshall plan for the Americas. The director of the OEA and the Colombian government commissioned Master Santiago Martinez Delgado, to paint a mural in the Colombian congress building to commemorate the event. Martinez decided to make it about the Cucuta Congress, and painted Bolivar in front of Santander, making liberals upset; so, due to the murder of Jorge Elieser Gaitan the mobs of el bogotazo tried to burn the capitol, but the Colombian Army stopped them. Years later, in the 1980s, with liberals in charge of the congress, they passed a resolution to turn the whole chamber in the Elliptic Room 90 degrees to put the main mural on the side and commissioned Alejandro Obregon to paint a non-partisan mural in the surrealist style.

Northern Irelandmarker contains some of the most famous political murals in the world. Many murals serve as a public service announcement of a special interest, notably for political topics such as sex, sexual orientation, religion and intolerance. Almost 2,000 murals have been documented in Northern Ireland since the 1970s. (See Northern Irish murals.)A not political, but social related mural covers a wall in an old building, once a prison, at the top of a cliff in Bardiyah, in Libya. It was painted and signed by the artist on April 1942, weeks before his death on the first day of the First Battle of El Alameinmarker. Known as the Bardia Muralmarker, it was created by English artist, Private John Frederick Brill.

In 1976 East Germanymarker begun to erect a wall between East and West Berlin, which became famous as the Berlin Wallmarker. While on the East Berlin side painting was not allowed, artists painted on the Western side of the Wall from the 80s until the fall of the Wall in 1989.

Many unknown but also known artists such as Thierry Noir and Keith Haring painted on the Wall, the “World's longest canvas”. The sometimes detailed artwork were often painted over within hours or days. On the Western side the Wall was not protected, so everybody could paint on the Wall. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the Eastern side of the Wall became also a popular “canvas” for many mural and graffiti artists.

Murals in contemporary Interior Design

Many people like to express their individuality by commissioning an artist to paint a mural in their home, this is not an activity exclusively for owners of large houses. A mural artist is only limited by the fee and therefore the time spent on the painting; dictating the level of detail; a simple mural can be added to the smallest of walls.

Private commissions can be for dining rooms, bathrooms, living rooms or, as is often the case- children's bedrooms. A child's room can be transformed into the 'fantasy world' of a forest or racing track, encouraging imaginative play and an awareness of art.

From the 1980´s onwards, illusionary wall painting has been experiencing a renaissance in private homes. The reason for this revival in contemporary Interior design could, in some cases be attributed to the reduction in living space for the individual. Faux architectural features as well as natural scenery and views can have the effect of 'opening out' the walls. Densely built up areas of housing may also contribute to people's feelings of being cut off from nature in its free form. A mural commission may be an attempt by some people to re-establish a balance with nature.

Tile mural

Tile murals tile paintings,which cover complete walls and give a wall painting-like impression. Tile murals are typically found in countries around the Mediterranean Sea such as Moroccomarker, Tunisiamarker and Arabic countries, in Portuguesa and Spainmarker mostly in a often monochrom-colored form, the Azulejo.

The Azulejo ( , ) refers to a typical form of Portuguesemarker or Spanishmarker painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tilework. They have become a typical aspect of Portuguese culture, manifesting without interruption during five centuries the consecutive trends in art.Azulejos can be found inside and outside church, palaces, ordinary houses and even train stations or subway stations.They were not only used as an ornamental art form, but also had a specific functional capacity like temperature control at homes. Many azulejos chronicle major historical and cultural aspects of Portuguese history.

Famous muralists

See also

Further reading


  1. Only after 664 BC are dates secure. See Egyptian chronology for details.

External links

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