George was super excited. This summer break he was going to Mexico. He had studied about the special kind of paintings that were done on the walls in his fifth grade. He remembered that the class was surprised when the history teacher spoke about the paintings that did not need a canvas. A wall, ceiling or a floor could be used as a surface to paint. Laughingly, she had said that the custom was probably started by the cavemen when they started writing on the walls.
Now it was time to go look at them.
George’s mother was intrigued to see his excitement.
On their way, his mother asked him, ” Are these the only murals in the world?”
George answered, “No Ma! the murals are spread all over the world. There prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, France. Ancient murals are also found in ancient Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia, Greece and India. In fact a lot of these paintings are in the cave and are well preserved, Ajanta and Ellora caves of India is a fine example”.
His mother, infected with his enthusiasm, asked further, “What exactly is depicted in these paintings?”.
George feeling a bit proud, continued, ” Different murals have different themes the older ones mostly represented the lifestyle or religious practices of people at that time, the more recent one talk of the revolutions or the political stories.”
By now George’s mother was thoroughly impressed by his knowledge on the subject inquired further, ” Why did the artists in recent times even think of painting the walls? ”
George had all the answers. He smiled and said,” Murals are mostly painted to convey a message either social or political, the artists are looking to have those people view their art that are not interested in art. These people can look at art in a public school or a church rather than an art gallery. Another reason is that the walls and ceiling are such large surfaces that artists can paint long stories on them”
George’s mother nodded as if it was clear to her, and smiled inwardly because her son was so clear on this history chapter.
They reached Mexico and were getting ready to see the murals that were painted by an artist Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros in the 1920’s. First they headed to the National Preparatory School in Mexico city where Diego had painted the first mural. The paintings, as described in his text books were full of life and color. They look as fresh as ever. The painting style that was used was fresco, which uses water paints with a damp plaster, as the colors in the plaster dry up it stays with the plaster. The colors lighten as they dry but gives a fresh appearance for a long time. The murals had stories to tell about the history. There were native Indians, Mexican peasants, factory workers, and famous politicians on the wall. Slowly during the day they traveled through all the mural sites.
On their way back George told his mother that there are tile murals as well.
His mother said that she might even get a mural painted in his room.
George just laughed.