A brief history of Wall Painting

From the dawn of civilization, even before early man gave up his nomadic lifestyle and settled down from being a hunter -gatherer, our innate desire to announce our presence has driven man to adorn his surroundings with visual depictions of all kinds. Humble cave paintings are the first signs we see of this behaviour, the earliest cave paintings dating back over 40,000 years depict simple geometric shapes or imprints of the palm or hand, as if to simply say ‘we were here’. As mankind evolved and neanderthals gave way to Homo Sapiens as we know them today, the artistic capabilities evolved with them. Rudimentary shapes and colours began giving way to more elabore depictions of definitive events from in and around their communities. From scenes of epic hunting battles between man and beast to renditions of the awesome power of mother nature, wall paintings in these caves soon became the first versions of documented history.

Different parts of the world took to the phenomenon in their own ways.The early Egyptians believed in the magical properties of wall paintings, even giving them divine importance. When great rulers were buried or mummified in ancient Egypt, extensive and intricate wall paintings would be plastered across the walls of their tomb. Depicting everything from their early life to their achievements over the course of their existence, these wall paintings were thought to be essential for the safe passage into the afterlife and were therefore considered crucial in completing the rites and rituals for rulers of the time. In another part of the world, pilgrims of the early Americas had a somewhat different view towards wall painting, considering it a symbol of greed and vanity. Wall paintings evolved from these elementary depictions to much more exquisite renditions of our artistic abilities as the centuries rolled by. Few can argue with the majestic beauty and intricacies of the famous Sistine chapel, one of the most widely recognised examples of wall paintings that exist today.

As the styles evolved, so too did the raw materials that were being used to create these historical masterpieces. Early man relied on the most natural of ingredients, so called ‘earth pigments’ which were available in their immediate vicinity. These constituted things such as minerals, charcoal, burnt bone, bison blood and grounded calcium, all which were used to create these wall paintings during the prehistoric era. With the passage of time, mankind learnt how to create colours from oil, water and a variety of other ingredients such as lead, ground shells, iron oxide, rice, eggs, fruits and so on. Lead was used extensively thanks to it’s durable properties and until very recently it was the standard across homes and offices in modern times. It was only during the late 1970’s that lead paint was deemed to be unfit for use due to the potentially lethal and poisonous fumes it tends to give off over time. These deadly vapours could cause breathing problems and allergies of all kinds and lead based wall paint was finally banned in places like the United states due to its harmful effects. People had a lot of limitations until one visionary named Marshall Smith invented what he called a ‘machine for the grinding of colours’. This revolutionary invention changed the face of the possibilities in the world of wall painting. Allowing for the first time, colours and shades to be grinded out, it paved the way for effective manufacturing of paint in paint mills. These monumental steps in the world of paint gave rise to one of the most established,respected and recognised names in the paint industry, Sherwin – Williams. Ushering in the modern age of paint, Sherwin – Williams was a pivotal partnership that introduced the world to the many wonders of paint that we take for granted today. Starting with the invention of the revolutionary paint tin can with the resealable cover that is still in use today, Sherwin – Williams was also instrumental in evolving the mixology of paint and are even credited with designing the first computer based system of colour codes and matching that we are all so used to today. 

Whether it’s early man’s innate yearning to capture his beliefs and experiences through cave paintings or the jet setting working professional who is looking to make his house into a home, wall painting and its ability to transform our environment has fascinated us for as long back as one may choose to go. If you’re looking to create your own space and inspire yourself with a more wholesome living experience, Aapkapainter is just a phone call away. Call us today and discover endless possibilities as you let your wall painting ideas take flight.