is the question that I encounter the most. The story of fresco
painting began over 35,000 years ago in the caves of modern France
where the Neolithic man applied natural earth pigments to the
moist limestone walls of his cave to illustrate his life and
beliefs. Of cause Neolithic man did not call his paintings
frescoes. So as every civilization there after had own name for
the technique used for the magnificent wall paintings found in
it's most treasured environments, temples, public spaces and homes
- the only technique that allows us to see those masterpieces
thousands of years after they were created. Through the years this
technique has been refined and now we know it as Buon (true)
Affresco ( In
English usage, "fresco" ). Painting done on freshly laid wet
plaster with pigments dissolved in lime water. As both dry they
become completely integrated.
In true fresco the artist must start applying his colors on the
wet (or fresco) intonaco as soon as it has been prepared and laid
on the wall. The colors can thus be absorbed by the wet plaster.
When it dries and hardens, the colors become one with plaster.
Technically speaking the plaster does not "dry" but rather a
chemical reaction occurs in which calcium carbonate is formed as a
result of carbon dioxide from the air combining with the calcium
hydrate in the wet plaster.
The complex information bank and technological achievements of our
age tempt and often force us to take a "short cut" in visual arts
education forcing our children to "run before they could walk". We
learn to read and write using the alphabet and in teaching art, I
believe, we should use the same method. Drawing a line on the
piece of paper will never form a word that may compose into
"Hamlet" unless the alphabet is taught, so as the same line will
remain just a line for as long as it only represents itself. This
"line" may trigger some abstract associations, however to make it
"speak" we need to learn where it "began" and what it is there
Fresco painting is the only "thread" that could be continuously
traced throughout the entire history of painting as the form of
expression "stitching" together the universal "language" of our
species - Art. During the Renaissance fresco was referred to as
"The Mother of all Arts". I do not think that it was the statement
of the confused people - their art speaks for itself.
Studying it's (fresco) history is taking us from Sistine Chapel
into the dwelling of the Neolithic man, from Mayan Temple to the
house in Pompeii, from Russian Church to
the Chinese Palace erasing the boundaries (distances) between
cultures. It is teaching us tolerance to each other. It is
impossible to overestimate the benefit of such journey.
Learning the technique of the fresco painting creates the unique
opportunity to discover the true essence of color and it's
relation to nature. It broadens the way we experience the painted
image, teaches the value and responsibility of permanence.
Due to it's chemical properties, Fresco Painting is the most
permanent painting technique, in which the painting becomes the
integral part of the wall or panel it is painted on. In fresco
painting pigments are bound into newly formed crystalline
structure of the limestone as oppose to adhering to the surface as
with other painting techniques. The colors in fresco must be
applied during the formation of limestone crystals and depending
on the skill of the mason and purity of the materials used, the
"open window" for painting could be anywhere from 2 to 12 hours.
Large frescoes could only be painted in sections (giornatas). Each
section has to be completed from "start-to-finish" on the same day
and if the result is unsatisfactory failed part of the painting
must be redone from scratch. Corrections and changes afterwards
are not possible. The size of each section is determined by the
artist reflecting the complexity of the composition and detail.
Fresco painting is also the most "involved" and collaborative
painting technique. Each fresco requires careful planning,
multiple trades and substantial resources. The successful
completion of a fresco equally depends on the artist, mason,
architect and other parties involved.
Factors above place fresco painting into a different from other
painting mediums realm - into a timeframe that is not enslaved by
periods, fashions, trends or anything temporary, but including
everything that has passed the test of time. Fresco painting does
not change but rather evolve from civilization to civilization,
era to era and from culture to culture reflecting changes in
society, ideology/religion and major transformations in the
development of cultures. Styles in fresco painting span over
centuries and often millenniums. Metaphorically speaking other
painting mediums serve as a sketchbook for the final masterpiece -
a new "mega period" in fresco painting.
Integrating a thorough study of the human history with the study
of the development of arts and comparing the combined timeline
with the timeline that marks "mega periods" in fresco will result
in the astonishing "coincidence" - whenever the civilization
reaches its pick - fresco matures and manifests itself through
timeless masterpieces and as civilization declines - fresco
follows. Follows but just to be reborn again in a renewed form
after the dark period of wars, confusion, false kings, false
prophets and uncertainty of faiths will pass.
The twentieth century presented us with most, if not all, of the
signs of the end of the old and the beginning of the new era. Two
world wars, rise and fall of the ideologies, "Babylon" of the
religions, information and communication mayhem, etc., etc. The
new civilization is "being born as we speak" and the new "mega
period" in fresco is forming. Recent escalating interest in fresco
painting is not a coincidence - it has happened before, it will
happen again and it is happening now.