Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Decorate With Primitive Colonial Murals

There is a really special feeling to a room with a colonial folk art mural and decorative painting, particularly in the 19th century style. These primitive murals are elegant in their simplicity and the way the artist painted rural scenes with almost naive,childlike qualities. 

In the United States, scenic wallpaper had to be imported from England or France. It was relatively expensive and difficult to obtain. A few folk artists in New York and New England were quick to respond to the fashion and produced hand-painted landscapes in oil directly onto dry plaster to compete with imported wallpaper. Touted as "healthier than imported papers" (due to the fact that bugs often feasted on the wheat paste used in hanging wallpaper), the colonial primitive murals appealed to the less-wealthy who desired the "look" of the popular picturesque landscape papers hanging in more affluent homes of the period.

It is hard to tell how many beautiful murals were painted during 1815 -1840's which was heyday of the colonial mural It is unfortunate that so many of these beautiful primitive murals have been demolished or buried under layers of plaster, paper and paint.

Do you have a wall that is just begging for some decoration? There are still folk art muralists that paint in the Rufus Porter style. I have gathered several pictures to show you some of Porter's original primitive murals plus the work by these present day artists.

Rufus Porter was top of the list of part of a definitive group of itinerant folk artists who travel and lived in people’s homes while crafting their murals. Porter's achievements are monumental and unique though none had the impact on redefining the direction of American decorative painting quite like his New England colonial primitive murals. Porter painted walls along the Maine coast and into New Hampshire utilizing the surrounding New England countryside as a backdrop ­ not the foreign scenes popular in the wallpaper versions.

Rufus Porter mural in the Daniel Carr house in North Haverhill, New Hampshire

Porter also borrowed techniques common in furniture decoration such as stenciling and stippling and used them within his mural design applications. Porter applied time-saving practices in his mural execution by working rapidly with stock stencils, and repeating the same elements, rural scenes, harbor scenes, views with houses, ships and islands, over and over. Mountains placed in the distance are common with elm trees dominating the foreground.

Rufus Porter mural

His smaller overmantle works include farm scenes, villages, fields, fences, roads and his trademark foreground elm trees.

Rufus Porter (1792-1884) , Hunting Scene, Oil on canvas, 68,6 x 170.4 cm,Delaware, Henry Francis Dupont Winterthur Museum

Houses and boats were executed rapidly using stencils and the leaves of trees were produced using the stippling effect. With the help of stencils, Porter could paint a whole room with a fanciful scene in about 5 hours.

Porter sometimes painted an entire room in a single day, in exchange for goods or services, not cashA typical landscape mural painting by Porter or his disciples might depict a waterfront or agrarian scene. Trees tower in the foreground, with a few small buildings planted in the distance, along with perhaps a boat or two, or farm animals. The colors are often vibrant and the detail is impressively sharp.

Porter's nephew Jonathan Poor kept up the tradition. He was one of a half-dozen affiliated folk artists who traveled the region doing their best (if largely unsigned) work behind closed doors, creating beautiful interior landscapes and seascapes.

One of the nation's premier primitive colonial muralist for the past 40 years has been David Bradstreet Wiggins. His Porter-style wall murals abound in New England and New York State. What makes him my favorite is the way he creates his murals to look like hey have been there for a long time. His colors are muted and soothing and his scenes simple. So many of the colonial murals today look too thought out and over styled. His do not.

Wiggins also painted the wall mural in this upstairs bedroom, working in the style of legendary 19th-century New England muralist Rufus Porter.

According to Wiggins (and I fully agree) the primitive murals "define the space and create an enclosure, but they don't really dominate a room."

David Wiggins also painted this primitive mural. "The trees, with their free brushwork, are very characteristic of Porter's murals," Wiggins says. "They're important because they lend movement to the scene." The diamond pattern Wiggins painted on the floor is also typical of the mid 1800's.

via pinterest

Another Wiggins designed primitive mural at Wayne Pratt Antiques.

A handsome harbor scene primitive style mural

The colonial primitive mural sets up such a warm background for decorating the colonial home.

Huge trees in the foreground of these primitive murals bring the outside into the home's interior.

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 Fireplace walls are wonder spots for a primitive mural. Also they are pretty when painted above wainscoting.

This dining room features a beautifully executed primitive colonial mural by the artists at Pine Street Studios.

This image and the one below show the same room and how a beautiful primitive mural enhances the home's charm.

via pinterest

Since the greens and blues of this folk art mural are such natural colors, almost any color combination looks fine against it.

Christopher Gurshin is another folk art muralist whose paintings look aged and authentic.

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I think you can agree that antiques look fabulous against a primitive mural!

Twin Farms Inn, Vermont.

You saw many of these murals painted on the walls of taverns, inns, and other meeting places. Can't you just see the artist working for his bed and board while traveling the countryside painting murals.

Primitive colonial murals make a room so very warm and cheerful. The subtle richness of the colors generally used in these painting and the simple elegance are most inviting.

via pinterest

Home of Susan Spirlet via Pinterest

I love a primitive mural that starts in the foyer and sweeps up the stairs.

A typical primitive landscape mural painting by Porter or his disciples might depict a waterfront or agrarian scene. Trees tower in the foreground, with a few small buildings planted in the distance, along with perhaps a boat or two, or farm animals.

This is a lovely colonial style mural....just wish I could have found a larger image.

Be creative if you are painting a mural yourself. Bring your painting up onto the ceiling at opportune times!

Rufus Porter style colonial mural from a house in Eliot, Maine, via pinterest

Via Linda Rudman -Behind My Red Door

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Homes don't have to be entirely colonial to sport a beautiful primitive mural. There are also wallpaper murals available and I believe this is an example of one.

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

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