A mural is a painting on a wall, ceiling, or other large permanent surface.

Murals of sorts, date to prehistoric times, such as the paintings on the Caves of Lascaux in southern France, but the term became famous with the Mexican "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.

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"). 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 which is then pasted to a wall surface.

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. For artists, their work gets a wide audience that otherwise might not set foot in an art gallery. For the city, it gets beautified by a work of art. Murals exist where people live and work and affect their daily lives. Murals are 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.

World famous are the murals in Mexico, New York, Philadelphia, Belfast, Derry, Los Angeles and in India. which 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. 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.

Murals and politics

Although the murals more often than not represent violence or intolerance, they are renowned for their professional nature and the notable level of skill of the artists creating them.

Northern Ireland contains arguably the most famous political murals. 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.)

The World Wall: A Vision of the Future Without Fear traveled to Mexico City in 2006 and was exhibited in the Museo de la Ciudad. The series of eight panels were painted in the U.S, Finland, Russia, Palestine, Israel, and Mexico. Organized by Judy Baca, muralist and an artistic director in Venice, California, artists around the world were asked to envision the moment of change in their country and a future without fear. Each artist and their teams responded with these works produced over a 10-year period. Four works were led by Judy Baca on different aspects of the transformation of a society to peace. Works are in progress in Canada, and Cuba with others planned for Africa, Ireland and other countries. the work is currently on display in Mexico City with the collaborative work of two women artists from Mexico City.

During the 1930s and '40s Colombia was in the middle of a dispute between the conservative and liberal parties. Tensions were high due to the strong communist force influence of the Soviet Union. So 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 latter, 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.

Unique murals

Unique murals are found around the world. An example of such a mural is to be found covering a wall in an old building, once a prison, at the top of a cliff in a place known locally as Bardiyah, in Libya. Signed by the artist on April 1942, weeks before his death on the first day of the First Battle of El Alamein. It is known as the Bardia Mural, and was created by Private John Frederick Brill.

The largest indoor mural measures 1,002 m² (9,731 ft²) and was painted by six artists in 7 days from February 27, 2005 at Shyam Vatika, Saraswati Estate, Cimmco Tiraha, Gwalior, India. The painting was co-ordinated by a professional mural artist (Aasutosh Panigrahi) and the owner of the place R P Maheshwary and Ankur Maheshwary. The six artists led by Aasutosh Panigrahi broke a previously held Australian record. The previous largest indoor mural measured 727.52 m² (7,830.96 ft²) and was located at Youth Club, Bernie, Tasmania, Australia on 30 June 2004.

The art features on all interior walls and ceilings of a privately owned auditorium, Shyam Vatika, which is used for banquet purposes. The art was purposefully done to break a previously held record. In August 2005 the art was appraised by Guinness World Records as the "World's Largest Indoor Mural".

The Indian state Kerala has exclusive murals. These Kerala mural painting are spread on walls of hindu temples. They can be dated from 9th century CE.

Famous muralists

Tile Mural

A Tile Mural is an arrangement of decorative tiles, that are either dye-sublimated, hand-painted, or kiln-fired and used as a decorative accessory. Tile Murals, are traditionally available professionally framed and ready for display, or as loose tiles to install for permanent enjoyment in the home or commercial environment. The subject matter often includes classical fine art from renowned artists, contemporary motifs, sports and holiday themes, and custom images which one can upload from his or her computer. Tile murals have gained wide popularity in recent years, from home décor enthusiasts and interior decorators. Portugal is the country in the world where tile murals are more common. From traditional to modern tile decorations one can find them everywhere - from palaces and churches to shopping centres and the tube.


A tile mural can be produced from a variety of tiles, depending on the look that the manufacturer desires to achieve. Most notably, ceramic tile is preferred among many because it is uniform, light-weight, relatively inexpensive and easily procured. Also in high demand is tumbled marble tile, which lends itself to a more distressed, old-fashioned and rustic look. Many prefer tumbled marble for their tile mural over other materials, because of its attractive veining and characteristic fissures which is inherent in natural stone. Others also choose tumbled marble because of its weight; since it is the heaviest of materials used in producing tile murals, it has the highest perceived value. Because today’s homes incorporate so many possibilities when it comes to construction materials, many manufacturers also offer porcelain, glass and travertine tiles.


Ceramic tiles are commonly available in 4.25” and 6”. Likewise, tumbled marble tiles also come in 4” and 6” sizes. Many manufacturers offer custom sizes. Overall dimensions for tile murals vary depending on the manufacturer, its resources and the image which is to be transferred. If the image is in vector format, which for example, is typically the case with officially licensed sports logos, a tile mural can be produced in any size with optimal results and no distortion in the mural’s resolution. The size of a tile mural, however, typically depends on the environment in which it will be placed. For instance, a tile mural which will be installed in a kitchen backsplash behind a cooking range usually does not exceed the size of the range itself, normally 36” in width.


A gloss finish can be applied to a tile mural which is desired to look vivid, contemporary and new. Gloss finishes usually pick up highlights and reflections. A satin finish is used if a consumer wishes his or her tile mural to look contemporary, without picking up highlights and reflections. Matte finishes are generally applied to tumbled marble tiles in order to retain the weathered effect of the tile mural.


Tile murals can be installed almost anywhere, historically however, the kitchen backsplash, bath enclosure, wine cellar, spa and cabana have been favored locations. Installation of a tile mural is relatively simple, though many home and business owners prefer to hire a professional to do the job quickly and seamlessly. The use of sand-less grout has also been integral in preventing a tile mural being scratched during installation. A commercial grade sealer is also recommended during installation.


Depending on the application, a tile mural occasionally needs maintenance. The use of a non-abrasive household cleaning agent along with a soft, cotton cloth is preferred to clean it. Any agent which contains abrasive chemicals may permanently damage the tile mural. Tumbled marble tiles require extra precaution because of their high porosity. Applying a sealer once every 24 months is recommended.

Deco Tiles

Deco tiles, also known as accent tiles, are individual tiles which are designed to match and complement the motif of a particular tile mural. These are often installed strategically within the balance of tile in a kitchen backsplash or shower enclosure and to expand the focal point of interest.

See also

Further reading

  • Oona Woods (1995). Seeing is Believing? Murals in Derry. Guildhall: Printing Press. ISBN 0-946451-31-1.
  • E. Clive Rouse (1996). Mediaeval Wall Paintings. Guildhall: Shire Publications.

External links

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