Decorative Painting by Jeanine

The History of Faux Finishing


“Faux finishing” or “decorative painting” is not a modern concept.  Faux is the French word for false or fake (pronounced "fo").  So faux finishing is technically, the art of using paints and glazes to make something look like something it is not. 

People have been trying to make their surroundings look more beautiful since the beginning of time.  We have found beautiful artwork in many ancient sites.  Many of these sites appear to have been for decorative purposes only. 

The first known use of paint to convey the illusion of another item was seen with the Mycean settlements over four thousand years ago.  It is later found in Pompeii, and then all over Europe during the Renaissance. 

The theaters in Europe employed artists to paint scenery backdrops for their plays and operas, and royalty frequently employed the traveling Master Decorative Painter to reproduce many elegant surfaces in their castle-homes.

Because the old Decorative Painting Masters passed their knowledge on by training Apprentices to take their place, their knowledge of their craft tended not to be recorded. They also carefully guarded their secrets and purposely didn't write them down.  Therefore, much information was lost to us.

The art of decorative painting almost died in the early 20th century due to the industrial age bringing in machine mixed paints -- which were no longer tonal, but even and consistent in color and easy to apply. Adding that to the unrecorded processes of the Old Masters and faux finishing almost vanished.

The cinema in America did create a new demand for the decorative painter for a while; but because of jealously even these painters were reluctant to train new apprentices and closely guarded their techniques -- and once again, their processes were not recorded. 

As people became more and more interested in the modern aspects of life, the traditions of the Decorative Painter died out, and with them, most of their secrets.

We've had a resurgence of interest in the beauty of  tonal painting since the 70’s.  This interest has only grown stronger and stronger as we are able to combine technology with old ideas. 

Today, however, faux finishing is more than just sponging, ragging and marble-izing. 

Fortunately, many products have been hybridized into user friendly items and many of the European plasters and textures have evolved into water based products, making them safe for the artist, as well as, for the homeowner.    So...

From painted illusions to old world techniques, the possibilities are endless --- being limited only by our imaginations.