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History of Faux Art

Although it's gaining popularity today, faux art goes back thousands of years. In fact, the ancient Egyptians practiced the art of faux wood graining as far back as 2600 BC. Several hundred years later, the Greeks also practiced the art, as has been shown by pottery dating back to 2200 BC. Following the Greeks, the ancient Romans expanded the art, including faux stone painting. Many faux architectural elements were uncovered in the doomed city of Pompeii, which was buried by Vesuvius in 79 AD.

(Be patient for the picture of ancient Greek faux art to load.)

Ancient faux art in Delos, Greece
Ephesus terrace houses built in the first century BC, Greece

The faux arts experienced a long decline after the early Romans, only resurfacing in any meaningful way when Italian painters began using faux techniques during the Renaissance, in churches and the homes of noblemen. During the Renaissance, there was an explosion of the genre, especially in faux marble and wood, and the technique adorns many grand cathedrals that still stand.

Another school of faux arts developed in France during the Renaissance. While both artistic schools employed faux techniques to fool onlookers, the Italian style wasn't nearly as intricate and complicated as that of their French counterparts. The Italian style was meant to fool viewers at a distance, but the French sought to make it difficult to tell faux from real--even under close inspection. However, to be successful, members of both schools needed a strong grasp of composition and color to achieve their visual artistry.

Before long, there were entire trade schools devoted to teaching the faux arts. Young men began their apprenticeships at thirteen and had to practice for some ten to fifteen years before they were thought qualified to practice their art on their own. Many of the apprentices trained under that system helped decorate the incredible palaces and cathedrals of both Europe and America.

The 20th Century brought a steady decline in the faux arts as people sought cheaper materials to decorate their homes. Mass production brought prices down, and the faux arts suffered, going seriously out of favor throughout most of the world, only to begin resurfacing in the early 21st Century.

With a resurgence of interest in the faux arts, things have improved dramatically for lovers of beautiful finishes, but only time will tell how long the trend will last. In the meantime, American homeowners will be able to enjoy an upsurge in elegance and charm--due to the ancient art of faux finishing.

Copyright © 2007 Jeanette J. Fisher
Use of this copy without permission is a violation of federal copyright laws.

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