History of wall coverings
In the beginning
The writing is on the wall
Ever since man could pull himself to his feet, he has had the need to write on walls and to decorate his living space with art. From the basic recording of every day life, to the lavish decorations of palaces, man has always covered his homes with wall art. The Lascaux caves in France were discovered on September 12, 1940 by seventeen year-old taking his dog for a walk. These caves are decorated with1, 500 engravings and 600 drawings. They have been dated to be 17,000 years old, and are often dubbed the oldest artworks of mankind and the beginning of art. They show the world as the inhabitants saw it, many pictures are of animals. But the decorating of walls was not in isolation or limited to culture. The Anjanta caves in India, The Apollo caves in Namibia, Native American rock art in Nevada, WaterMountain paintings in the Sahara, aboriginal art in Australia and the natives of Norway have all had the need to paint their environment. But why did they do it, was a need to be creative, or did these paintings have a religious meaning. Some scholars believe that primitive man went into caves to talk to the gods and the paintings were either a wish list, a sort of symbolic prays, or visions the gods sent them. Another theory is that the paintings could be ‘bragging rites ‘. One hunter showing the rest what he had caught. Or is it a primitive need to say ‘I was here.’ Nobody really knows. Either way the paintings give archaeologists a view of the world inhabited by ancient man.
Cave paintings from around the world
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- Prehistoric Cave Paintings
Prehistoric cave paintings have been discovered in caves around the world, such as the Chauvet cave and Lascaux cave paintings in France, the Altamira cave in Spain, the Cueva de las Manos in Argentina, Aboriginal Rock Art in Australia and the Draken
Egyptian wall art
The Ancient Egyptians wall art was exclusive to the pharaoh, rich citizens, and temples and of course tombs. Even though papyrus was available to record events, the walls were their main way to record important events and information. Why? In an age when most of the population couldn’t read, or your greatness needed to be conveyed so someone from other lands could understand it, the walls were there for all to see. Ramess the great recorded his success at the battle of Qadesh in a huge mural. Leaving his enemies with no doubt about his strength. However it’s the tomb paintings that the Egyptians are best remembered for. It was the need to pass on the spells required for the journey into the afterlife that made the Egyptians draw on the walls. But as with everything to do with Egyptian art, these wall paintings had certain rites and a precision, which had to be adhered to. Six essential colors that was symbolically important to Ancient Egyptian art, black, white, blue, red, green, and yellow. Colors came from natural ingredients which were pulverized and diluted with water and gum which helped them to stick to the walls Yellows and reds were obtained from desert ochres, white from chalk or lime. Lamp -black was used and the Blues and greens were extracted from calcined mixtures with a cobalt base for blue, a copper base for green. The whole wall would be covered with a thin layer of plaster to give an even white surface to work on. The next step was to mark the walls with red grid lines. Draftsmen did this by dipping string in red ochre, a pigment used to color paint. The string was held taut in the position that a line was to be marked. When the draftsman plucked the string like it was the string of an instrument, it would snap against the wall and leave a perfectly straight red line, just like a modern chalk line. The grid lines would help the draftsmen to be sure they drew the figures the right size and proportion. Different parts of the body had specific sizes in relation to each other in Egyptian art. Using the grid in this way, a draftsman would draw the rough outlines of the painting in red. This way everything painted on tomb walls were to the same standard and very stylized.
Roman Wall decorations
Wealthy Romans loved to decorate the walls of their houses and villas. The main rooms were decorated with colored plaster walls and, if they could be afforded, mosaics. The designs they used could be picked from a sort of catalogue that the local artisan offered, or they commissioned a craftsman to work on a design of their own. A master craftsman would map out the picture while those who worked for him did the actual work in making the mosaic or mural. Family portraits were popular as were pictures of their Gods and legends. Roman houses and villas were made from stone, wood, bricks and even concrete. The Romans used concrete to build far quicker than had been done in the past. Concrete was also less expensive than building in marble and far stronger and longer-lasting that older wooden structures. This concrete was mixed and poured in much the same way as it is today. In order to build a wall, the Romans would build two parallel low brick or stone walls with a space in between. This space was then filled with concrete. In this way, the city of Rome expanded quickly with larger buildings being constructed far quicker than they had been in the past. Because they used these hard wearing materials, there are many examples of Roman architecture still surviving today. Our knowledge of Ancient Roman wall paintings relies in large part on the preservation of the buildings of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and particularly the Pompeian murals.
Pictures from the Bible
The Middle ages
Centuries later, and particularly in cooler climates, people used fabric to cover walls and windows to keep drafts out. In the homes of the well-to-do, these fabrics were elaborate, tapestries, which also adorned the walls of European palaces and castles. They were not only practical, but decorative. Most churches, during the Middle Ages would have been decorated with brightly colored wall-paintings. Church services would have been in Latin which very few ordinary people understood. So wall paintings (and pictorial stained glass windows) helped to convey the stories and messages from the Bible.
- Medieval Art - History for Kids!
Medieval Art for Kids - sculpture and painting from the Middle Ages
The earliest known wallpaper in England dates back to 1509. A woodcut pomegranate design printed on the back of a proclamation issued by Henry VIII. The 1600s also marked the debut of flock paper. Flock is the small shearing of wool left over from the manufacture of cloth. The Use of wallpaper became so widespread that it inspired the introduction of a tax in England in 1712 on paper that was "painted, printed or stained to serve as hangings”. The repeal of wallpaper taxation in 1836 encouraged designers in England to produce very complex designs that became popular in the Victorian era. . Charles Harold Potter in 1839 invented a four color printing machine that could turn out 400 rolls of wallpaper a day. By 1850, eight color printing was available and in 1874, the twenty color printing machine was invented. The wallpaper industry was booming. The prices were dropping and wallpaper became affordable to the masses .I n 1888, ready-to-use wallpaper paste was introduced making wallpaper easy to hang. Wallpapers suitable for nurseries appeared for the first time in the Victorian era. Front halls, lounges and dining rooms boasted bright colors that often included wallpaper. By the late 1800s, British designers like William Morris and Owen Jones flourished. Morris, for example, insisted on the purest colors and techniques and his influence is evident in the hundreds of mass-produced papers manufactured from the 1880s until the end of the century. Due to war work, the manufacturing of wallpaper declined through the 40’s and 50’s. Most people went back to painting walls if they bothered at all. It wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970's that new "vinyl" wallpapers were introduced. Vinyl, an oil based product was cheap and easy to print. Typical vinyl wall coverings consist of an outer layer of vinyl laminated to a paper backing. Bright bold designs, easy to use adhesives and the reintroduction of flock paper, led to another boom in home decorating. However these papers were notoriously difficult to remove. Although labeled "strippable" which is still used today. "Strippable" wallpaper means that eventually you will be able to get it off the wall. People began to find out that wallpaper removal was difficult and time consuming which again lead to a decline in the use of wallpaper.
Is graffiti art or vandalism?
Would ancient cave painters be considered mindless yobs drawing on walls today? Is tagging harking back to a primeval need to say’I was here’ or is it closer to bragging rites of the primitive hunter? Is graffiti Ok if you have permission, or does that take something away from the free expression of art? The debates go on and on. I suppose there is a difference between graffiti and graffiti art. We all appreciate a nice picture. Modern graffiti art originated in New York City, and it was known first as "New York Style" graffiti. This art form began in the late 1960s when teens used permanent markers to tag or write their names, followed by the number of the street on which they lived, in subway cars. The advent of spray-paint allowed tags to develop in size and color. It was not enough just to have one's name scrawled over any available and visible surface because everyone was doing this.The main problem with graffiti art is it means so much to the artist and little to the casual onlooker. The spray can separated the taggers from the artists in that color, form, and style could be emphasized creatively with this new tool to produce tags as a part of an overall artistic production. It was when the graffiti was done to provoke an emotional response that it became art. When it makes people stop and think that truly graffiti art was born. The god father of stencil graffiti art is Blek Le Rat who worked on the streets of Paris. His pieces were often painted with an underlying social conscience such as his man that walks through walls. Coming from Bristol I have to mention Banksy. The streets of the city have certainly become more interesting because of him. Influenced by Blek Le Rat his paintings are thought provoking and often carry complex social issues in simple to understand images. The piece of monks praying at a ‘sale ends today ‘sign says it all about our consumerism society. But is graffiti art moving into another area. The street artist Slink left a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of art around London. Walking around the capital, the artist left more than 50 miniature dolls on street corners, cross roads and in places where they would be noticed only by those who glanced in that direction. It made people look at the streets they used everyday and look at length at their surroundings.
Banksy in Bristol
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