Reference Library: Mural
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, :es:Pedro Nel Gómez, David Siqueiros, José Orozco or Rufino Tamayo). There are many techniques. The most well 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 when dried.
Murals today may be painted in a variety of ways, using oil or water based media. The styles can vary from abstract to ''Trompe L'Oeil (a French term for fool or trick the eye'').
Famous murals and artists
The most famous murals are arguably those of the Italian Rennaissance, specifically The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, and the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo. In the 20th century, Diego Rivera was the most famous painter of murals. Murals are not to be confused with large paintings; they must be painted on the surface of a wall. Thus, Pablo Picasso's Guernica, though a large painting, and political in nature (as were the murals of Diego Rivera) is technically not a mural since it was mounted on a stretcher bar and hung on a museum wall. The same goes for other large paintings, such as Claude Monet's "Waterlilies".
Among the world's most famous muralists are Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Bogside Artists and Gert Neuhaus.
In the United States, during the opening decades of the 20th Century, murals were popular in many buildings including the ornate theatres contstructed at the time. One of the most famous of these muralists was the Dutch-born painter, Anthony Heinsbergen.
During the Great Depression in the United States, the United States government, through the Works Progress Administration commissioned artists across the country to paint murals on public buildings, such as post offices and libraries.
The development of the community murals which started in 1968 with The Wall of respect, Chicago, has spread to countless communities producing thousands of murals; it is documented in the book by Alan W Barnett "Community Mural, The People's Art".
Philadelphia is a city that is famous for its abundance of murals. The current development of the muraltown concept started in Chemainus, Vancouver Island and has now spread world wide including towns such as 29 Palms, Lompoc, Ely, Nevada, Prestonpans, Nar Nar Goon, Sheffield, Tasmania, Vernon, British Columbia, Merritt, British Columbia.
The Mission District of San Francisco, California also has numerous murals.
Significance of murals
Murals are significant 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 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 and Los Angeles [http://rpmurals.home.att.net/] 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.
'Unique Murals' are to be 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 the 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.
Northern Ireland murals
Northern Ireland contains arguably the most famous political murals. Almost 2,000 murals have been documented in Northern Ireland since the 1970s. 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.
Almost all of the Northern Ireland murals promote either republican or unionist political beliefs, often glorifying paramilitary groups such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Volunteer Force, while others commemorate people who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks. Many loyalist artists incorporate messages of politically-driven murals.
The most famous of the murals in Northern Ireland may well be Free Derry Corner, where the slogan "[http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/images/photos/derry/bogside/freederry1.htm You Are Now Entering Free Derry]" was painted in 1969, shortly after the Battle of the Bogside. However, some do not consider Free Derry Corner to be a true mural as it is only words and not images. Free Derry Corner has been used as a model for other murals in Northern Ireland, including the "[http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/mccormick/photos/no946.htm You Are Now Entering Loyalist Sandy Row]" mural in Belfast, which was a response to the republican message of Free Derry Corner, and the "You Are Now Entering Derry Journal Country" mural, which is an advertisement for a Derry publication.
Not all murals in Northern Ireland are political or religious in nature, with some commemorating events such as the Great Famine and other moments in Irish history. Many portray events from Irish mythology, though images from Irish myths are often incorporated into political murals. A few murals avoid the subject of Ireland altogether, instead focusing on such neutral subjects as litter prevention and the C. S. Lewis novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe[http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/mccormick/photos/no1919.htm]. Murals representing peace and tolerance are becoming increasingly popular with school groups who have children either design or actually paint murals in areas around their schools. Additionally with many paramilitaries now involved in community work there has been a move to decommission many of the hard edged loyalist murals in east Belfast. Some of the warlike murals have been replaced with iconic figures from the area, for example George Best.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Mural".