Romoe Conservators Network

Restoration of mural paintings

Conservation and restoration of wall and ceiling paintings

Paintings on wall surfaces accompany us every day and are a testimony to centuries of art and cultural history. Artists used surfaces on facades as well as surfaces in interiors.
Mural painting is firmly connected to its underground, so the history of the painting is strongly linked to the history of the building. This is the greatest challenge in the field of monument protection.

 

The preservation of the building substance is the basis for a successful restoration. Only in this way can the danger of renewed damage and the influence of environmental factors be minimised. Nevertheless, wall paintings on facades are subject to permanent wear and tear and require regular conservation measures.

What's the scope of this field?

The appearance of cultural monuments is primarily determined by a decorative surface design. For this reason, the restoration of murals is one of the focal points of restorers' work. The department includes both restoration and conservation of various types of surface designs. These include facade paintings and the decorative execution of interior design. The colours can be monochrome or polychrome and can be fresco or secco. Other frequently used techniques are mosaics, sgraffiti or marble imitation. Wallpapers are also among the tasks of restorers for murals. The multitude of techniques used is increased by the large number of substrates and binders. These include various plasters, lime mortar, clay, terracotta and brick, plaster and wallpaper. Modern building materials such as concrete have also already been artistically designed and are among the areas of application for restorers.

Archaeological excavations often report findings with decorative paintings. These surfaces can be removed and worked on in the workshop. The later presentation in the museum enables an ideal conservation of these objects.

Course of a restoration of mural paintings

Due to the fixed location of the objects to be restored, the restorer must work on site. First, he creates suitable working conditions for himself. A dry environment supplied with sufficient light, e.g. daylight lamps, is often necessary. He then begins the analysis. The data collected is also processed digitally. The focus of the investigation is increasingly on recording the physical structure and chemical composition. Restorers intend to permanently eliminate the damaging causes. The treatment of the existing damage is only one part of the restoration. Once the materials used and the type of material applied have been analysed, the appropriate substances and processes can be applied that come as close as possible to the creation processes. Restorers must therefore have extensive knowledge of materials, ageing processes, art and crafts.

Depending on the extent of overpainting, layers of paint are uncovered, e.g. in one or more "test axes", in order to research the different versions and discover any initial versions. This very limited exposure also makes it easier to estimate the cost of restoration for the object as a whole.

Following the analysis, the conservation or restoration of the object begins. The existing substance of the work is only intervened until readability is restored. The transitions between existing and processed substance should merge into each other or are presented on the object in such a way that they are clearly recognisable. The way in which these flaws are to be integrated is the subject of ongoing scientific debate. However, the work will not be completed once the restoration has been completed. The objects will continue to be monitored, maintained and restoration successes documented.

Which examination methods are available to the restorer?

The restorer begins with an initial visual inspection of the object. For this he uses his knowledge of different style epochs, materials used and techniques. This information is digitally documented. In addition, special examination equipment from photo and microscope technology as well as laser and ultrasound can be used. Rapid analysis and solvent tests are also used to identify salts and other chemical elements. Samples of the object can be taken in order to obtain information on, among other things, the structure of the painting layer.

Which damages occur frequently?

Damage to murals is mainly due to environmental influences. Paintings on facades are particularly exposed to the weather. Water, UV radiation, salts, pollutants in the air as well as fungi and other microorganisms are among them. Humans also cause damage as tourism grows stronger. As a result, flaking, chipping or blistering occur under the painting layer. The structure of the surface becomes sandy and begins to crumble. Colours fade, grey or darken. The Restoration Department is increasingly using the latest findings from the field of microbiology. Damage to building materials caused by salts and fungi should finally be permanently repaired through the use of biogenic substances.

Do you need a professional restoration of a historic wall painting?

In the section wall and ceiling painting on our page, you as a client can see a list of references of the restorers registered with us. You can also find a suitable expert in your area via our directory of restorers and our search by area.

If you are interested in wall painting and are looking for an internship, training or further education, then we offer a lot of detailed information in our job exchange as well as in the subject area education and studies. Furthermore, we also provide basic information on the job description and the training as a restorer.

The history of mural painting

The history of mural painting also represents the history of mankind. It is the oldest form of artistic expression in cultural history, besides the art of sculpture. Artists designed walls, ceilings or floors, using the texture of the surface in its flatness (strict mural painting) or created the impression of a three-dimensional form (illusionistic mural painting).

 

Entrance areas, halls or salons were given a magnificent design and were intended to impress every guest. At the same time, knowledge could be conveyed through a sequence of pictures or signs. In times of insufficient literacy, the mural was of great importance.

First paintings on cave walls

The first wall paintings are dated 31.500 B.C. The famous cave paintings from Lasceaux in France are around 18,000 years old and show representations of horses, bison and aurochs. Also in the chambers of the pharaohs' graves, wall paintings with representations from the Egyptian faith have survived the millennia. Sequences of pictures served to impart knowledge and allowed even illiterates to understand the ceremonies performed. The history of mural painting continues in buildings of antiquity. Greeks and Romans let temples and public buildings shine with their deities in an illusionistic painting style. But also secular buildings were embellished in their aesthetic appearance and were supposed to illustrate the wealth of their owners.

The art of wall painting in the Middle Ages

The Romanesque period meant a great upswing for the art of mural painting. Due to the conversion to Christianity, numerous churches were built all over Europe, which had to be decorated with biblical representations. The many believers who were not literate were to be familiarised with the Gospel through symbolic depictions. Paintings from this time are only slightly preserved, as churches were destroyed and rebuilt in later times.

In the Gothic and Renaissance periods, fresco techniques became increasingly important. In terms of style, naturalism was adopted. The themes of the paintings became more complex and told stories. The highlight was the painting of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.

In the baroque period, ceiling painting became the focus of interest. Architectural elements were extended and led into the ceiling. A never-ending sky should astound the viewer and the power of religion should be impressively shown through the opening of the ceiling.

What is the difference between fresco and secco techniques?

Fresco painting (fresco painting) uses the moisture of the freshly applied lime plaster to create a firm bond between the paint and the substrate. The following chemical reaction is called silicification and the resulting mural is called fresco. The fresco technique requires a quick painting technique and represents a very durable form of wall painting. However, there are limitations in the colour scale, as only alkali-resistant pigments may be used.

In the secco technique (dry technique) the artist applies the paint to the dried surface. He does not have to fulfill a fixed daily work, but can take more time in the execution. However, the durability is much shorter.

Historical wallpapers

The first printed wallpapers date from the 17th century. With increasing industrialisation, printed wallpapers were printed on paper by machine. The stencilled patterns are often reproduced in patterns. The walls of noble houses were covered with velvet brocade and Spanish leather in the 16th century. In the baroque period, gold leather wallpaper was considered the measure of all things, and in the Rococo era, it was hand-painted chinoiseries that represented true luxury. Material as well as painting are as varied and challenging in the field of wallpaper restoration as mural painting.

Arrival in the modern age

In the interior, wall painting lost much of its importance after the era of Art Nouveau. In the 1960s, Europe developed its own form of wall painting: graffiti. Facades were sprayed over large areas and mostly showed messages of bourgeois rebellion. If the message is more complex and politically oriented, these works are called murals. In Germany, murals in interiors have been carried out more frequently again since the 1990s.



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