Painting applied to and made integral with the surface of a wall or ceiling. Its roots can be found in the universal desire that led prehistoric peoples to create cave paintings—the desire to decorate their surroundings and express their ideas and beliefs. The Romans produced large numbers of murals in Pompeii and Ostia, but mural painting (not synonymous with fresco) reached its highest degree of creative achievement in Europe with the work of such Renaissance masters as Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. In the 20th century, the mural was embraced by artists of the Cubist and Fauve movements in Paris, revolutionary painters in Mexico (e.g., Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros), and Depression-era artists under the sponsorship of the U.S. government (e.g., Ben Shahn, Thomas Hart Benton).
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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.
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.
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 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".