At the heart of the Italian interior during the Renaissance was the creative gift of painting on walls and ceilings. How to employ artists today for work in the interiors of public buildings? Is it economically viable, are the artists, used in full capacity today? Did the interior designer take over the artist’s role, with his or her wide range of materials for specification?
The popularity of interior decorative painting an art form has had its peaks and lows throughout the centuries. It was certainly more the trend at the times of renaissance than it is today. Following the renaissance and up to the 21st century wall mural painting had gained great importance and a painter as a persona gained a major role in interior decoration. In the 16th century the lavishly painted interiors by a respected master became certainly a status symbol for many patrons who now lead a more settled lifestyle. The very existence of patrons such as the Medici or the pope, has allowed for many artistic personalities to flourish. Often driven by power struggles and desire to prosper, nevertheless many were finely educated in the new humanistic approach and appreciative of great art. This period serves as a great example of a close artist-client relations and gave birth to such greats as Leonardo, Michelangelo and Rafael. The work of the artist had to respond to desires of the client, but still there was room for artistic expression and innovation.
The role of the mural artist today has diminished. It is now a collaborative effort, where painted decorative work is a subject not only to the wishes of the client, but also often the designer or the architect oversees and plans the design of what he wants the artist to achieve, as a result the artist can produce more but often has little say on the idea of design. At the renaissance times, the artist was much more involved in the design of the actual space as the practice of designer or architect was not viewed as separate from the artist. As the result the artist had more responsibility with perhaps less chance to bring a project to its completion, however the work produced was inarguably spectacular and grandiose. The renaissances great lesson to modern times is for person trained in visual arts to be more involved in the process of design decision making.
The turn of the 20th century and beyond gave way to mass produced materials in construction and building techniques. Accordingly the values of the client have drastically changed. The construction speed and compact living quarters gave little to expansive interior painting. As the new and improved materials appeared and minimalist style ideas came into their own right, the lavish painting style seemingly no longer had a place in the modern interior. Decorative richness was gained by variety of basic textures inherent to materials. The concept was to use woods, metals, tile, glass, variety of colors, without excessive decoration. However in certain cases mural painting had regained it’s strength in different contexts. Due to political, social and economic changes, the patron was now the public. Hence the mural became more regarded as a public art form and only later has made its way back to the private home. There are many instances when murals serve as propaganda, as symbols or teaching tools used for religious inspiration for ages, and in modernity it became cultural and political iconography. This type of mural painting was popular in the soviet block countries as well as Cuba and Mexico. Diego Rivera is a prominent figure of that period. He not only painted murals in a unique social realism style but also was involved actively in promoting the ideas of communism and socialism.Interior decorative painting is executed in many styles and materials, from the abstract or graphic shapes textures and colors, to impressionistic depictions, or to classical style in proper architectural context.
The painting techniques developed during and prior the renaissances are used today with many expansions and improvements. Fresco method, tile murals, stained glass, aging techniques, and gilding are as popular today as they were back then. The classical style is highly realistic, employs perspective and accurate anatomical figurative depiction was given a name trompe l’oeil because it is often used to create an illusion, of either space or object. The modern times introduced new materials, such as acrylics and made improvements on the old ones like stuccoes, and oils. This gives the artist many more possibilities, and a shorter time frame to create masterpieces. The longevity of an interior decorative piece is important and technological advancements have been made in this direction as well. The renaissance artist looked for inspiration from the discoveries of the Roman and Greek art. For centuries following the 17th the renaissance art became an etalon of traditional beauty. Now we live in the time frame where interior styles intermix and intertwine mostly following the modernist pattern. The art of mural and the interior decorative art follow the flow architecture.
The classical mural has evolved into use of new and exciting shapes, textures, collages free exploration of possibilities of abstract art. And this evolution is a new norm. Ultimately the art is there to please its owner, to create a positive mood and be in harmony with architectural details. The modern living quarters often dictate the size proportion of the artwork. Today’s style is to have one feature wall with the mural; in the days of Michelangelo it was common to commit the entire grand spaces to a mural depiction. In our day the term mural has been expanded to include printed media, on vinyl tile or canvas where one can have a cheaper and removable option, although often you get what you pay for, the originality and allure of the hand painted finish is sacrificed. Economically speaking a painted peace can be a great option, since mural substitutes expensive rugs, wall coverings or imitates expensive stone, or even rids one of necessity to have a major construction. It is a less involved way to visually improve upon an interior, long lasting and durable, it creates interest to an otherwise monotonous space. . It exposes public to the art scene and the artist to the public. Commercial companies, health and child care facilities, often use murals to convey their purpose, like company logo, to improve user experience, to create a more friendly and pleasant atmosphere. Public art works successfully outdoors as a landscape beautifier and a tourist attraction.
photo credit: Anna Repp and @azrdesigngroup