The earliest forms of mural painting are scratched pictures of animals in French and Italian caves, that were probably created by Cro-Magnons (ca. 30, 000 BC). A bulk of wall paintings are preserved in ancient Egyptian tombs (3150 BC), in the Minoan palaces (1700–1800 BC) and in Pompeii (100 BC–79 AD).
In the Middle Ages murals were executed in “a secco” technique – that means that paints are applied to dry plaster. A huge collection of murals from Kerala (India), dated back to 14 c. is also a perfect example of secco paintings. In Italy, ca. 1300, as the result of reintroducing and improving the technique of painting on wet plaster the quality of wall paintings increased significantly.
. In Modern times, muralism became more widespread with the Mexican muralism – Mexican art movement of 1920-1960s (Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco). It covers various styles and techniques, but probably the best-known is “fresco” technique, that uses water-based paints applied to freshly-applied plaster. As colors dry they usually lighten.
Today’s murals are executed in different techniques using water-soluble paints. Styles can also vary from abstract to “trompe-l'œil”. Nowadays, the beauty of mural paintings has become more available with “frescography” technique, when a traditional fresco is transferred to paper, canvas, glass or ceramic tiles and creates the impression of a realistic executed by hand mural.
Fresco is a technique of mural painting executed upon wet or freshly applied plaster. It is one of the most difficult techniques as an artist has to finish the work in a few hours until plaster is wet. Fresco painting requires readiness, composure and the perfect idea of the whole composition and of each its element. With a thin layer of lime, which serve to protect colours, fresco can be preserved for centuries.
Frescos executed by such prominent artists as Michelangelo, Rafael, Giotto and many others have survived to the present day. But unfortunately, a lot frescos are no longer extant. For instance, the famous “The Last Supper” painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The painter was always aiming at amending painting techniques, and he used oil paints instead of water-soluble ones applied to plaster, but unfortunately this experiment resulted in immediate destruction of the fresco.
The most remarkable paintings executed in the technique is a cycle of frescoes by the great artist of the High Renaissance Michelangelo Buonarroti and his works still decorate the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Vatican.
A secco paintings are executed upon dry plaster using paints preliminary ground with mucilage, egg or mixed with lime. In comparison with fresco, a secco let a painter work by easy stages and cover larger surfaces, however this technique is less durable.
A secco technique has been known since the Middle Ages, where it was developing alongside with fresco technique and was quite popular in European art of the 17-18 centuries.
Mosaic is a picture made from small pieces (tesserae) of such material as smalt, glass, stone, ceramic etc. Mosaic technique experienced its flourishing era in the Byzantine Empire, where from the 4 to the 14 c. mosaics were used to decorate cathedrals, shrines and other buildings. The main characteristics of Byzantine mosaic are small modules of tesserae, more delicate masonry, special masonry techniques of clothes and faces, abundance of golden background. With livelong materials, which mosaics are made of – ceramic tiles, stone, smalt etc. – pictures are preserved over years in their pristine condition.
There are two main methods of creating a mosaic: the “direct” method and the “indirect” method. The direct method involves directly placing tesserae onto the supporting surface, while in the “indirect” method tesserae are applied to paper or other material, and later transferred onto the primed surface.
Stained glass is the term that denotes compositions made from coloured glass which allow light to pass through and which are usually used as windows and sometimes as doors. Earlier stained glass was used as a decoration in churches using thinly-sliced alabaster or selenium instead of glass. In that times stained glass depicted mostly religious scenes, but later, as technique developed, stained glass started to depict secular subjects and applied to living quarters and municipal building as well. The technology of constructing a traditional stained glass is as follows: at first the coloured glass is cut, then the pieces are assembled by slotting them into H-sectioned lead cames, then all the joints are soldered together. Came glasswork requires considerable knowledge, skills and patience: the artist must cut the elements as accurately as possible and solder joints together so carefully that all the elements are perfectly connected and the joints themselves are invisible. Nowadays stained glass is as popular as it was earlier. It is usually used in interiors of buildings, restaurants, cafs etc.