The Americas - Painting on ceramic surfaces


The Support

Pre-Columbian cultures used ceramics as a base or support for painted images, rather than board or canvas. Many of their pots tell stories, commemorate lives or illustrate important events. Another possibility was to paint on walls, in which case the support material would usually be a limestone plaster mix known as stucco. Many of these murals have been found in excavated tombs, but they would also have existed in palaces and temples, or painted on the interior walls of caves. 



Pigments used for mural painting vary enormously, from simple natural oxides to complex artificial compounds.  Mayan Blue, for example, is an intense turquoise colour, particularly resistant to age, weathering and even modern chemical solvents. It was made by mixing and heating three materials: indigo extracted from plants, a special clay called polygorskite, and copal oil.  The resulting blue pigment was thought to be symbolic of the healing power of water in an agricultural community.  In sacrificial rites, victims were often painted blue, indicating their special status. 


Modern muralists

In 20th Century Mexico, mural painting was revived as a way of conveying historical, social and political statements through art.

The leading Mexican muralists (Diego Rivera, José Orozco, and David Sequieros) known as los tres grandes (the three great ones), actually worked separately and had little to do with one another. Their differing techniques were more indebted to European fresco painting than to traditional mural painting in the Americas.