Murals hold great significance for humankind, as they are a reflection of life activities, everyday scenery and religious traditions of the time they were created in, leaving important footprints of the diversity of cultures during the different time periods.
The history of professional mural art can be spotted all the way back to the Romans. In Pompeii and Ostia almost every building was painted in unified, decorative schemes that included a wide spectrum of pictures, including landscapes and figured scenes.
Nevertheless, the concentration of mural art has in no other period in history been more comprehensive than during the Renaissance in Europe. An artistic, creative and inquiring spirit, a wealth of the support from powerful patrons and a continuously innovative way of thinking defines this remarkable age.
In the High Renaissance two of Leonardo Da Vinci's most important murals came to life: The Battle of Anghiari (1503–06) in the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence and the famous Last Supper (1495–98) in the Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.
The 17th century was characterized by the Baroque style, which expressed in the great building enthusiasm created by the Counter-Reformation, especially through the Jesuit order. Furthermore, it was shown through the importance given to the buildings and homes of the ruling aristocracy throughout Europe as the centres of society's cultural life.
In the late 18th and 19th century, the development in style and mural technique almost stagnated. But in the 20th century mural art was redefined in new experimenting ways. Abstract and expressionistic murals became popular and large projects of Pablo Picasso were developed in Paris.
In Mexico a large scale of mosaics became a distinctive feature. During the 1920s and after the Mexican revolution murals got an extra dimension as a powerful tool to promote the public opinion and to transmit controversial political and social messages.
As urban art today is becoming more mainstream, big companies often create promotional advertisements, designs and campaigns in collaboration with famous street artists.
Despite the commercial dimension, murals are still considered an important socially engaging art form: They function as a significant role in the relationship between art and politics and they represent an aesthetic element, that can be used to improve urban and residential areas and turn them into beautiful, cultural artifacts.