Exterior Murals

Written by Patty Yu
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Many consider cave paintings the earliest evidence of decorative wall art, often known as interior or exterior murals. "Mural" is derived from the Latin word murus which means wall. Paintings made on walls, both indoor and outdoor, provide artists an avenue to express political, social, and aesthetic ideas that are usually integrated specifically into that particular architectural space.

Over time, artists began mural painting on many different types of wall space, including tombs, temples, civic buildings, churches, and all kinds of outdoor walls. In the Americas, architecture shows a great presence of exterior murals, with artists like John Singer Sargent who developed cycles for museums and libraries. Early in the 20th century there was big surge of Mexican muralists who produced many art murals for public buildings.

In the United States, the Works Progress Administration even hired artists in the 1930's to paint various industrial, social, and agricultural scenes. Exterior murals showed up on the walls of schools, post offices, and many other public buildings. Mural art became a great outlet for those wishing to make a political or social statement, document a piece of history, or just to create some decorative wall art.

Conserving Exterior Murals

Painting art murals on exterior walls allows a wide, public audience, but unfortunately makes the paintings vulnerable to environmental conditions. Sun exposure, rain, heat and cold all wear down the paint and color, fading over time; many murals also experience vandalism and graffiti. Unfortunately, murals are difficult to maintain, since artists are not always known, and many debate the process of conservation, questioning the historical value of a repainted mural.

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