We’ve been painting our walls with images for at least 32,000 years and it would appear to still be a way for humans to express themselves. Early Upper Paleolithic cave paintings showed our desire to bring something of the outside or something from our imaginations into our homes. Cave and wall art can be found on every continent stretching back through time and reflecting the culture’s outlook and values. Murals are to be found in the Egyptian tombs and the spectacular Minoan wall art dating back 5000 years.
Trompe l’eoil Illusions
Optical illusion murals referred as Trompe l’eoil, which means, “deceive the eye” in French, have been popular for over 3000 years. The Romans and Greek enjoyed them and many examples can be found in the preserved Pompeii. In the Renaissance knowledge of illusion and perspective was transferred to the famous fresco ceilings. Artists were able to show not just their skills at realism but doing so their ability to trick the mind and eye and were commissioned to paint church ceilings and make them look larger and grander than they really were. Even today the modern artist Banksy uses perspective illusionism in many of his works.
Social and Political Murals
Murals have moved from the inside to the outside both in terms of billboard advertising and murals painted as a social statement or political stance. In the 1920’s and 1930’s building owners were paid by companies to have huge slogans painted on the side of their buildings and from such acts the modern billboard was born. Both dictatorships and repressed peoples have used murals either as propaganda or to express their ideas and anger. Mexican murals expressed traditional values and later political struggle of the indigenous people and spread up through the United States creating a wave of murals through New York, Detroit and San Francisco. Northern Ireland’s murals were an expression of both communities, and 2000 can still be found today. The Berlin wall was covered in political murals on the west side and since its fall the east has become a mecca for graffiti artists.
With the growth of interest in home interior design, interior murals have come back in fashion. Skilled artists can be commissioned to paint walls in homes or personal images can be printed to wallpaper murals. The themes range from the classical Trompe L’eoil to modern cityscapes. Still the outside world comes in with close-up photography being blown up to a large scale and landmarks, countryside, beaches and artworks adorning our homes walls.