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Painting has a long history. Even before we started building homes, we started painting. Decorating cave walls was an attempt to personalize the surroundings and make the environment look beautiful.
Painting had other objectives as well, like talking about spirituality, the painters’ sojourn with wild etc., but these objectives became the subject matter not the art form, for the cave paintings. With time, our race mastered this art of painting and the world saw many masters.

The development of faux painting is not different from the development of any other form of art. It is in practice for centuries, though sometimes it was not included in the favorites. The earliest reference to an art form similar to the faux painting techniques had been found in the Mycenaean pottery, and in some of the Greek art works, made around 2200 BC.
The English language borrowed this term ‘faux’ from French, which originally meant fake, but the derived meaning of this word is, something made to resemble something else.
Faux painting or faux finishing is an art of recreating the look and the feel of natural materials. Faux painting is not one technique, it is a collection of techniques, which is used to replicate the textures of marble, wood, limestone, stained and distressed paint and even to create an effect of aged plaster. The techniques of faux painting are also used in making graffiti.

This desire to replicate the natural world or the elements of natural world is being fulfilled since the time of Egyptians. The Pharaohs’ artists of third dynasty acquired and honed the faux painting technique of wood graining.
The Romans took Greeks’ palette, which contained only limited number of earth tones, and created a magnificent array of styles and finishes. The buried towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum (buried in the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD) used faux painting techniques to create decorative architectural components, faux stone paintings and trompe l’oeil.
Romans used decorative painting as a tool to boast their ego. Walls of wealthy Romans were decorated with the house owners’ portraits. This was the time when mural painting saw its first great development.
All this came to an end, with the fall of Roman Empire. The Roman middle class started disappearing, and so did the art of decorative painting. The church was in charge, and the nature of painting was going to change, from decorative to religious.
As the church was the major benefactor, religious painting was destined to rule the art world for centuries to come. Themes from bibles were to be used for painting in the coming centuries.

In Europe, lot many things started to change in 14th century, the beginning of European Renaissance and with it changed the fate of Faux Painting. Italian painters started using the fresco techniques to decorate churches and houses of nobles, of those who commissioned them.
This was the golden age for painting and the fate of faux painting was not going to be any different. Many new techniques were developed and the existing ones were refined. The materials thus developed looked real; it required the skills of an observant viewer to distinguish the real from faux. Faux wood and faux marble were created and used in construction of grand cathedrals to keep the construction costs low.
During the Renaissance, two schools of faux painting were formed, one was the Italian school and another was the French school.
The faux style developed by the Italian school was realistic but loose. The faux techniques used by Italians involved fewer steps, and are most successful in creating the desired effect when viewed from a distance.
The faux techniques developed by the French school are intricate and complicated. The faux finishes produced following this school, call for a close scrutiny by the observant onlooker, to find the flaw.
A sound knowledge of composition and a strong sense of colors are required to get the looseness of Italian faux style or the rigor of the French faux style.
17th century was the time when varnishing and lacquering made their way into faux finish. This was the second golden age for faux painting in Europe. The palace of Versailles is a testimony to this claim.
The idea of decorating their homes fascinated the upper class of the Victorian era. And this time faux finishes like wood graining, marbleizing and stenciling were largely used to decorate the floors, walls and ceilings.
Stencil designs of Victorians were more ornate and luxuriant in comparison to the designs of the modern time. It added flavor to the opulent milieu, when used with vivid colors forming intricate designs.
It was during the 18th and 19th century, when the modern faux painting was born. The old masters created techniques, which we collectively call faux painting or faux finishing.
Due to the rise of faux painting, in the 19th century many institutes emerged to professionally train the artists. New materials were researched and found; pigments were one of them.
The escalating demand for the faux finishes led to the development of painting schools and various companies jumped into this. Students were roped in for apprenticeship at the age of thirteen and trained there for ten years before they could venture on their own. Some of these artisans would work as contractors to create great cathedrals in Europe and America, using the faux painting professional skills.
Even in the first three decades of 20th century, faux painting continued its upward movement, but the post War world word didn’t prove to be fertile for this kind of art. This was the beginning of second Dark Age, for faux painting.
Creativity gave way to assembly lines. The mass-produced, pre-fabricated goods were the demand of time, and craftsmanship was waning out. Survival was on the top of the list and aesthetic beauty went falling downwards, till it reached the bottom. People were now looking towards companies for solutions, and the industry responded with its version of answer; produce cheap and meet needs.

After being in dark slumber for decades, faux painting started regaining consciousness in 1980’s, and in coming decades it was going to find its lost glory. Our time has showed its renewed interest in faux painting.
The development of acrylic resin, alkyd resin and implements fuelled the growth, and the new techniques are being developed. Innovation is again on the rise; design magazines are filled with professional articles, pictures of faux painted companies’ boardrooms, opulent houses.
At present, faux painting is being used in homes, work places, restaurants, theaters, movie theaters, etc., for creating new dilemmas and taking the beauty of interior to a new height. The faux painting is also being used in littering walls with graffiti.
Faux painting turns the floors, walls and ceilings into a big canvas. It provides an opportunity to make the living space exciting and worth living.


Filed under Faux Painting