Decorative Wall Paintings



Wall hangings are the favorites of the those who want to decorate their surroundings, for a very long time. The paintings on the walls of the Bhimbetka caves in Madhya Pradesh, India, date back 20,000 years, and show us that decorative wall paintings were in vogue even before the time of recorded history.

Mural Paintings :

Murals are decorative paintings on walls, ceilings and other permanent surfaces. There are two forms of this decorative art: fresco and tempera.

Frescos :

There are two styles of executing this type of decorative wall painting:

  • Buon Fresco , which is a fresco painted on wet plaster, such that the colors intermingle with the plaster and become a permanent part of the wall.
  • Secco , which is fresco painting executed on dry plaster.


The most well known series of frescos is in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The brilliant paintings on the ceiling of the Chapel were executed by Michelangelo. The Creation of Adam depicts God giving life to Adam. It was completed in 1511.

Tempera :

A decorative piece of wall art executed using this technique is painted with a mixture of egg yolk, vinegar and oil color, on dry plaster. The result is a matte finish.

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is perhaps the world's best known tempera mural. It depicts the scene where Jesus, who is surrounded by the apostles, announces that there is a traitor amidst them. The frontal view, that da Vinci favors, gives us a clear view of the expressions on the faces of the apostles.

Mural Paintings of India

India's most famous frescos are those at the Ajanta Caves , in Maharashtra. They represent the Jataka stories of Buddha's life.

The Warli paintings of the Warli tribes of Maharashtra depict their way of life in a lively manner. During the harvest season, and during wedding and birth celebrations, these tribes adorn their homes with these decorative wall paintings.

The patterns of a Warli painting are usually circular or spiral. This indicates the circle of life. The color scheme is very restricted, however. It is limited to stark white against earthen colored backgrounds. Geometric designs dominate. The painting units are dots and crooked lines. The typical themes are those of marriage. These depict the marriage god, Palghat, his horse and the bride and groom. These paintings are sacred to marriage ceremonies. Another popular theme of this decorative wall painting is that of men and women dancing in circles and spirals around a musician.

Pithora paintings of the tribes of Rathwa, Bhilals and Nayka of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, are another fine example of Indian murals. These paintings convey the joy and celebration of the community. This decorative wall painting is more of a ritual than a painting form. When a family problem occurs, the head priest or Badwa is summoned. He offers solutions which often involve painting Pithoras on the walls of the house. The custom is to paint the first wall of the house and the two walls around it.

The colors are made by mixing pigments with milk and liquor of the Mahuda tree. First the walls are plastered with mud and cow-dung. Then they are coated with chalk powder. This process is called lipna . Thereafter, the painting is done.

Madhubani paintings of Bihar, India, are also colorful and vibrant pieces of art work executed on house walls by the women in the family.

Kerala Murals are executed in the fresco-secco technique. In this method of decorative wall painting, water colors are used on dry plaster that has been moistened to simulate wet plaster.

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