Fresco Art - A Quick History

For as long as man has been recording history artistic developments have reflected the societies in which they occur. This includes their geographic locations. The history of fresco painting is closely bound, and a reflection of the history of art in general.

Fresco which means fresh in Italian, is a form of painting murals in earth tones are directly applied to wet plaster.


The first fresco paintings have been dated as far back as 30,000 years ago. The earliest discoveries being of paintings done in the Chauvet cave located in France. More than 15,000 years ago frescoes were created in other caves in Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain. These examples of early fresco paintings are brilliant testimony of the long history of this form of art. The early frescoes, painted on the limestone walls of the caves, contained remarkably expressive and realistic figures of horses, bison, bears, lions, mammoths, and rhinoceroses. These paintings continue to fascinate researchers and art historians even today.

Fresco Art - A Quick History

The technique of painting frescos on wet plaster evolved somewhere around 1500 BC. It is widely believed that this technique allows the artist more flexibility in the use and the placement of the frescoes for meeting more decorative goals. The earliest known examples of such frescoes are believed to have appeared around 1500 BC and can be found on the island of Crete in Greece.

The most famous of these early paintings, The Toreador, depicts a crowned ceremony in which the individuals jump over the backs of large bulls. While some similar frescoes were found in other places around the Mediterranean basin, in particular in Morocco, their origins are subject to speculation. Some art historians believe that fresco artists from Crete may have been sent to Morocco as part of a trade exchange, a possibility which raises to the fore the importance of this art form within the society of the times.

Frescoes were also painted in ancient Greece, but few of these paintings have survived. In Southern Italy, at Paestum, which was a Greek colony, a tomb containing of the frescoes dating back to 470 BC. These frescoes depicted scenes that indicate the life and society that was active at the time which was that of ancient Greece.

Fresco Art - A Quick History