Mural Painting

Written by Patty Yu
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Mural painting is a decorative art that dates back at least 30,000 years in the form of cave murals. Preserved by the shelter, these ancient paintings often depicted lifestyle activities, religious rituals, and animals. Some seemed to be teaching tools, showing young men how to hunt various animals with their weapons. These discoveries gave historians much insight into the cultures, and revealed some distinct, early art techniques.

Throughout history, wall art work appears in many different types of architectural space. Temples, tombs, and palaces, often displayed murals, followed by art murals painted in churches, museums, libraries, and many other public buildings. One very famous example of mural painting is Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling depicting the story of the Creation plus other mythological and religious imagery.

Modern murals grow out of the same tradition as those painted thousands of years ago. Since the artist paints directly onto walls in a particular location, the mural painting becomes part of the environment, like an artifact of the space. For this reason, murals are usually conceived in relation to its natural or architectural setting, and allow artists to express social, political, and aesthetic ideas.

Exterior Mural Painting in America

Mural art established a significant presence in American architecture, starting from the early 20th century and forward. Well-known artists, like John Singer Sargent, made mural cycles for various museums and libraries. U.S. Works Progress Administration contracted artists to paint industrial, social, and agricultural scenes in the 1930's on the walls of post offices, schools and other buildings.

Outdoor murals became even more abundant in the second half of the 20th century with political activism and social changes. The Chicano mural movement used murals to document history otherwise unavailable in mainstream education. Artists of other backgrounds quickly followed, creating diverse imagery all over the country on freeways, housing projects, and many other public and private buildings.

Unfortunately, outdoor murals begin to show wear after some years of exposure to environmental conditions. Sunlight, rain, and harsh weather make mural paintings fade and crack, not to mention an exterior mural's vulnerability to vandalism. Conserving outdoor mural paintings is often debated, since the original artist is not always known or alive. Little funding exists for mural conservation, and many consider repainting erasing historical value.

Mural Painting for Commercial and Residential Locations

Decorative murals are one way that many businesses enhance their commercial space's appearance. For some retail stores, or restaurants, and other businesses, creating a visually appealing environment can really influence performance. Mural paintings often create a distinct theme, mood, or atmosphere that can make the space stand out to consumers as a memorable experience.

Many homeowners also enjoy a mural's decorative finish inside a residential home, often creating more dramatic effects, and the illusion of more space. Trompe Loeil wall art techniques are often used, with naturalism and perspective creating three-dimensional images that look like you could walk into the paintings! Parents commonly paint murals in children's rooms to create enriching, educational, and imaginative environments.


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