A Mural Painting is a form of visual art where the colors are directly applied to an extended and permanent surface like wall, tomb and ceiling creating a harmonious fusion of the image and that of its architectural edifice and its surroundings.
Murals are the earliest forms of creative exploits of human species, which are found in the form of cave paintings. Dating back to as early as 30,000 B.C. to the Upper Paleolithic Age, the earliest instance of mural paintings is found in the Chauvet Cave of France. Other early mural paintings are found in the Egyptian tombs, Minoan Palaces (a civilization growing up in Crete during the Bronze Age) and in the Roman city of Pompeii around 100 B.C.
With the ‘Muralista’ art movement in Mexico, mural paintings gained a huge impetus and grew in popularity across the world. The spearheads of the movement were the well known Mural artists like Diego Rivera, José Orozco and David Siqueiros.
Among the various types of techniques of making a mural painting, the most popular is Fresco. Derived from the Italian word affresco, this form of painting is done by applying color on the wet plaster on walls primarily with the motif of making the painting last more than any other type of mural. Frescos became a popular technique for the artists during the Renaissance, but lost its significance in the following period only to be revived in the 20th century.
On the basis of techniques, fresco is divided into the following:
Indian Mural Painting has a vastly important role in world art. One of the earliest cave paintings in India are found to be murals as early as the 6th century B.C. Indian murals, which were practiced widely in the ancient India, give us an in depth knowledge of the socio-cultural practices of its people.
Indian mural paintings are found in various historical places as one of the finest specimens of any art form in India. The famous mural types of India are:
The earliest evidence of mural paintings in India has been found in the cave paintings of Ajanta and Ellora made from the volcanic rocks in Maharashtra in 2nd century B.C. Most of the paintings have eroded away due to lack of maintenance. Being the earliest remnants of Indian art, Ajanta murals include sculptures and paintings of animals, deities and their guards.
Created during the Gupta period, this cave depicts the life and thoughts of Lord Gautam Buddha and Buddhist philosophy and perspective of life. The most celebrated mural of this cave is the illustration of a male figure seen to be emanating a sense of compassion, benevolence and even an essence of somberness while witnessing the misery and pain of the whole world. This figure seems to personify the senses of human perception of beauty within its figurative representation: the eyes are painted like the lotus petals and the waist is that of leonine tautness. This is the famous Indian mural of Ajanta Bodhisattva.
A few characteristics of Ajanta Murals are:
Having resemblance with the architectural patterns of the Ajanta Caves, mural paintings of Bagh Caves situated in Madhya Pradesh were done during 4th and 7th century A.D. With residential units inside the caves, murals on the subjects of teachings, inscriptions and religious practice of the Buddhists are found here. The popular Buddhist figure of Padmapani, also found in the Ajanta, is beautifully painted in the tempera (permanent fast-drying painting medium mixed with color pigment and water soluble binder) technique. Use of frescos is found in abundance on the walls, ceilings and pillars of this cave.
Following the technique of Fresco Secco dating back to 9th to 12th century A.D., Dravidian murals are commonly found on the walls of the temples and churches in Kerala and other parts of South India. With its genesis from an ancient Indian art form called Kalamezhuthu, (art of creating images on the floor), Dravidian murals follow the aesthetic principles of Shilparatna, an ancient Indian text prescribing the various technique of creating images with color.
A few notable characteristics of Dravidian Murals are:
Various places where instances of this mural are found include the following
Punjabi Murals came into existence during the Mughal Era. This kind of mural is found on the walls of the Lahore fort portraying both the Hindu and the Muslim kings, reflecting the secular mindset and fraternity of the Mughals. Punjabi Murals become historically interesting as these murals reflected the defying attitude of the Mughals, as they promoted murals in spite of the Islamic inhibition of drawing human figures.
Mural paintings flourished under the patronage of the Mughal Dynasty, especially during the rule of Akbar who among the Mughals was the first to use frescoes extensively as a decorative tool in architecture. Among the best are the frescoes of Rangmahal, which was built by Jahangir in 1630.
During the 15th and 16th century A.D. Lepakshi murals were popular under the reign of the Vijaynagar kings in Karnataka. The most significant mural painting is found in the temple of Veerbhadra in Lepakshi, which provides an important reference point in discerning the history of visual culture in India.
Some of the key features of Lepakshi murals are: