Mural Paintings are the decoration of walls or ceilings for aesthetic or didactic purposes, executed in any of several techniques. Most often used to decorate public buildings, mural paintings tend to be of large scale and to portray religious, historic, or patriotic themes significant to the public.
A very ancient art form, mural painting is found on the walls of prehistoric caves, most notably those in Altamira, Spain, and the Lascaux caves in southern France. Wall painting was one of the highly developed arts of ancient Egypt; the walls and ceilings of tomb chambers were decorated in tempera with figures and motifs symbolizing life in the afterworld. Private dwellings throughout ancient Greece were customarily decorated in tempera and encaustic; the tradition was carried on into later Hellenistic and Roman times.
From the 17th to the 19th century, mural paintings by such artists as Peter Paul Rubens and Francisco de Goya were executed mainly for secular buildings and were generally done in oil on canvas, which was then attached to a wall or ceiling.
In the 20th century mural painting was revived by Diego Rivera. In the mid-1960s, more purely aesthetic concerns and fantasy were illustrated by Marc Chagall in his oil on canvas mural decorations. A return to social realism is seen in the outdoor murals on ethnic or political themes executed in large cities from the 1960s to the present, either by groups or by individuals such as the graffiti artist Keith Haring.