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A History of House Painting

A History of House Paintingcave painting image with text that says a history of house painting from the stone age until today

We take it for granted now, but why do we paint our houses? Who was the first person who, tired of staring at a white wall, thought to themselves, “Wouldn’t a light blue look lovely in here?” Who knew that a white baseboard would brighten up a room? Who thought that a front door should be painted red? Well, if you’re like us, and you have always wanted to know, read on! And if you’re motivated to follow in the steps of our ancestors, give us a call at (866) 496-0092 for your free estimate.

If you think about, humans have been painting their homes for as long as they have decided to stop hunting and settle in one place. The Guardian reported in 2016 when kids accidentally found 100,000 year old “painting kits” in a cave in South Africa. The Stone-Age artists apparently crushed giant sea snails for their yellow and red pigments; then these were used to create symbolic murals like the ones found in Lascaux, France.

image of a cave painting

Photo Credit: Meros

Fast forward a couple thousand years to the Pharaonic period when massive monuments were built to the living and the dead. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Egyptians believed wall murals had magical properties in both temples and tombs; they reminded Egyptians of the continuity of life and rituals after death. Thus, wall paintings were sacred, and depicted crucial aspects of the Egyptian psyche throughout the 1300 years that this period of art spanned.

Egyptian wall painting

Photo Credit: The British Museum

This love of interior decoration reached a high point in the Western world with the gloriously detailed Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo between 1508-1512. The chapel, attached to the private Papal apartments, was used as a gathering place for the Cardinals of the Catholic Church to elect a new pope and is decorated with scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is arguably one of the greatest works of art in human history.

Sistine Chapel ceiling

Photo Credit: Musei Vaticani

As we discussed in earlier posts, the elite through the 17th-19th centuries painted their homes bright colors as signs of wealth. In the early American colony of Williamsburg in Southern Virginia, the local newspaper gives insight as to the popularity of paint. According to the Colonial Williamsburg paint analysis experts, the Virginia Gazette advertised colors like Prussian blue, Spanish brown and dragon’s blood. However, not all paint pigments were stable and often changed over time, limiting the choices for exterior color. Would you have chosen the gray and black exterior of the Robert Carter House in Williamsburg, depicted below?

Colonial Home

Photo Credit: Colonial Williamsburg

The instability of the paint chemicals limited paint application until 1866 when Sherwin-Williams sold the first ready-to-use paint. This revolutionized the paint industry, bringing paint colors in the whole spectrum of the rainbow into every nook and cranny. The paint industry continues to develop and revolutionize the way we conceive of our decorating our homes.

Vintage sherwin williams ad

Photo Credit: Sherwin-Williams

It’s clear that throughout all of history, humans have not only painted, but have loved to incorporate beauty and important culture, into their homes. Today we still care about beauty and tradition, just as our forefathers did. But we also are more aware of our environment and the health effects of certain paint chemicals. That’s why Sherwin-Williams is still leading the way with their cutting-edge paints that make our everyday lives better with their environmentally friendly Zero VOC paints.

sherwin williams ecoselect paint can

Do you want your home to be the next step in paint history? Let 360 ° Painting put your home on the timeline.