BlogInformationHistory of Wall Art Part Three – Greeks and Romans

History of Wall Art Part Three – Greeks and Romans

Added 1 year, 8 months ago.

Tags: greekwallart | romanwallart | contemporarywallart | abstractwallart |

Paintings from antiquity in Greece and Rome rarely survive - paint, after all, is a much less durable medium than stone or bronze sculpture.

It is thanks to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii that we can trace the history of Roman wall painting. The entire city was buried in volcanic ash when the volcano at Mount Vesuvius erupted, thus preserving the rich colours in the paintings in the houses and monuments there for thousands of years until their rediscovery. These paintings represent an uninterrupted sequence of two centuries of evidence.

On a more domestic scale, wealthy Romans, in early AD, loved to decorate the walls of their houses and villas. The main rooms were decorated with coloured 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, myths and legends. There were also feasting scenes and those of the natural world.

The tradition of wall painting in Greece goes back at least to the Minoan and Mycenaean Bronze Age, with the lavish fresco decoration of sites like Knossos, Tiryns and Mycenae. The most famous Greek artists were Polygnotos, noted for his wall murals, and Apollodoros, the originator of chiaroscuro. The subjects of paintings were rulers, mythology, gods, battle scenes and nature inspired. However, similarly to Ancient Rome, paintings on wall plaster, wood, and marble panels were easily eradicated, most ancient paintings were destroyed long ago. Many fine examples, some of the highest quality, have survived, however. These are the funerary paintings on stelae or burial chamber walls in northern Greece and Macedonia, whose rich kings and nobles could afford the best talents from the southern cities.

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