Artists/Artisans have created art on walls as long as we have been living in communal groups. From caves, churches, palaces and government buildings, artists have been creating expressions of the current culture with their creative individuality. “Murals in History” will share mural creations from around the world, throughout human history.


Instrument of Power


Sacred Wood Dear to the Arts and Muses


The Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple


The School of Athens

“Instrument of Power” by Thomas Hart Benton

A 10 panel, room-sized mural call "America Today", 1931, egg tempera with oil glazing over Permalba on a gesso ground on linen mounted to wood panels. 
This was originally created for the  boardroom of the New School for Social Research, a center of progressive thought and education in Greenwich Village. This is the largest panel is filled with enormous machines that embody modern industrial might.   Eight of the panels depict life in different regions of the United States: the South, the Midwest, the West, and New York.   Benton created "America Today" in a dynamic, restlessly figurative style that reflects his study of sixteenth-century European painting, especially the style known as Mannerism. But the exaggerated, pantomimed gestures and expressions of the figures he painted also recall early twentieth-century film, among other popular sources. Also stagelike in character is Benton's depiction of architecture, particularly the dam in "Instruments of Power", a facade that suggests his response to Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. Among the mural's most distinctive features are the aluminum-leaf wood moldings, which not only frame the entire work but also create inventive spatial breaks within each large composition. The famous Abstract Expressionist artist, Jackson Pollock, was a student of Benton's.

“Sacred Wood Dear to the Arts and Muses” by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

Permanently installed oil on canvas, 1884 (approx. 16x20 ft). One of three large murals in the stairway,  Palais de Beaux Arts, Lyon, France. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, 1824-1898.

Puvis de Chavannes was one of the most prolific of the government supported painters of the Second Empire and the Third Republic, even obtaining one of the most prestigious mural commissions in the United States, for the grand staircase of the Boston Public Library.

Puvis de Chavannes' work is seen as symbolist in nature, even though he studied with some of the romanticists, and he is credited with influencing an entire generation of painters and sculptors, particularly the works of the Modernists. He uses classically-inspired allegorical themes which invoke a timeless past and Renaissance ideals. Yet, he stylistically collapses space and sometimes thwarts those Renaissance “rules”, giving his work a modern look.

“The Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple” by Giotto di Bondone

Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel, Padua, Italy, c. 1305, Fresco, (approx. 4x5ft) by Giotto (Giotto di Bondone . 1267 – January 8, 1337) The Italian painter and architect from Florence painted the interior of the chapel with a cycle of 37 images of which this is one. This is his most influential work and considered to be an important masterpiece of Western Art. Giotto was "the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature", to quote a famous chronicler of that period.

This is still considered the Gothic period yet notice how well shaded and solid the figures look, moving away from Medieval flatness. Giotto was a pioneer in observing the human figure from life and depicting it with solid volume as if there is a real body underneath the clothing. Take note of the attempt at perspective in the architecture. The system of linear perspective had not been developed and Giotto is on his own as far as how to show architecture and delineate realistic space for his figures.

"the school of Athens" BY RAFFAELLO SANZIO DA URBINO

Approximately 17' by 25' fresco painting, completed in 1511 in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Painted during the High Renaissance, this mural is an excellent expression of it’s ideals. Representing Philosophy, with Plato and Aristotle as the central figures, this mural expresses the renewed interest in ancient Greek philosophy. Raphael was only 27 when he completed this work, showing a remarkable command of the human figure. Notice the excellent use of linear perspective to create a believable space. The development of linear perspective is a hallmark of the Renaissance period.



Murals in History was created in partnership with Lucretia Torva. If you have any questions regarding the content you can reach her at