The question I am most frequently asked is “what is the difference between a mural and fresco?” The main difference is the materials used. A mural is a picture painted directly onto a walls surface using acrylic or household paint. A fresco has been bound to the wall by applying pigments, usually made from ground up stone or earth and mixed with lime, directly on to wet, fresh plaster.
The technique I learned in Florence was perfected in the Renaissance period and examples can be seen in the great Palazzos, churches and public buildings in Italy and the rest of Europe. However pigments mixed with oil not lime and painted on to canvas or board became fashionable and meant that painting fresco largely died out. Painting directly onto walls returned to popularity in the 1920’s with the invention of acrylic and household paint, for example the huge murals in Mexico and later in Ireland.
These quick drying paints have allowed the creation of bespoke interior murals in restaurants, bars and private houses with a minimal amount of mess.
So which should you have – a mural or a fresco? There are advantages and disadvantages to both:
A mural is quicker to paint and details can be added or removed at any time. The materials are easy to find and relatively cheap. A mural painted outside, using breathable mansionary paint should last a long time, as long as the base wall is in good condition and no damp exists. A mural is also extremely child friendly as the paint does not smell, is quick drying and can be wiped down using a damp soft cloth, should it get dirty. Unlike a blown up photo a mural has been created specifically and uniquely for your home or business, with your ideas and wishes taken into account. Unlike wallpaper there are no repeats and the image does not have to be restricted to any one wall or space but can travel from floor, to ceiling, to wall depending on the effect required by you.
A fresco is harder to create. Painting must be completed within an 8 hour period and no changes can be made after that – although small changes can be added in egg tempura. The materials must be sourced and delivered before works start and costs more. It is physically demanding, takes more time and creates more mess!
The main advantage to a fresco is that it is possible to remove the picture from the wall and transport it to a new location should you move house. The other advantage is that the texture of a fresco is powdery and gritty and the colours created by the raw pigments is softer and more translucent than any other paint. It is using an historical technique to create a unique art work for your house.