Is there a word for it? If you go to certain church, you will see some paintings done on walls a long time ago. Is there a word for it? I am thinking there might be a word for it since the look of a painting on wall greatly varies from those done on a canvas.

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    You mean "painted directly onto a wall", not "a painting hung on a wall".
    – smci
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 3:39
  • 1
    Do you mean encaustic painting (hot wax and pigment), to distinguish it from wall or panel painting?
    – Rob
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 2:01

2 Answers 2


The word is mural, derived from Latin for wall. Wikipedia

(EDITED to correct mistakes and add dictionary definitions; thanks commenters.)

OED "A painting executed directly on to a wall or ceiling as part of a scheme of decoration."

Related words:

  • Frescoes are a kind painting defined by the freshness of the plaster while they're being painted, almost always on walls OED "A kind of painting executed in water-colour on a wall, ceiling, etc. of which the mortar or plaster is not quite dry, so that the colours sink in and become more durable."
  • Grafitti is writing or pictures, very usually on walls. OED "Art (Historical). A drawing or writing scratched on a wall or other surface; a scribbling on an ancient wall, as those at Pompeii and Rome." and also "In plural with singular agreement. Words or images marked (illegally) in a public place, esp. using aerosol paint."
  • Frieze OED "A band of painted or sculptured decoration."
  • Murals are famous as political expression in Northern Ireland and many other places.

The Triumph of Death is both a fresco and a mural, from the well-known paintings at The Camposanto in Pisa. Wikipedia enter image description here

The Water Lilies -- The Clouds, By Monet (wikipedia), is commonly called a mural, but is actually painted on canvas and mounted on the wall. Its museum, the Orangerie, describes it as a "frieze". (EDIT to correct my mistake, thanks commenters.) enter image description here

  • 2
    I think the above is in fact painted on canvas (musee-orangerie.fr/en/artwork/water-lilies-clouds) - so not really a mural.
    – Strawberry
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 12:56
  • If it's a short strip running along most of the wall, near the ceiling, then the term is a frieze.
    – CSM
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 20:54
  • Thanks @Strawberry I corrected my mistake
    – jonathanjo
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 10:45
  • I certainly wouldn't call the Water Lillies a frieze! Perhaps something was lost in translation.
    – Strawberry
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 11:59
  • @Strawberry Perhaps usage varies. The Orangerie calls it "This one took its final form in the arrangement in the Orangerie: a panoramic frieze laid out almost seamlessly, and enveloping the viewer in two elliptical rooms.", with same phrase in French une frise panoramique , usage which seems to match OED. musee-orangerie.fr/en/article/history-water-lilies-cycle
    – jonathanjo
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 13:30

A word that's often used is fresco, even for paintings which technically aren't frescoes such as the famous 'The Last Supper' by Leonardo Da Vinci. A better example is the Sistine Chapel, where the walls and ceiling are full of frescoes by Michelangelo:

By Michelangelo - Own work Antoine Taveneaux Taken on 14 June 2014, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33930339

Fresco (plural frescos or frescoes) is a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly laid, or wet lime plaster. Water is used as the vehicle for the dry-powder pigment to merge with the plaster, and with the setting of the plaster, the painting becomes an integral part of the wall. The word fresco (Italian: affresco) is derived from the Italian adjective fresco meaning "fresh", and may thus be contrasted with fresco-secco or secco mural painting techniques, which are applied to dried plaster, to supplement painting in fresco. The fresco technique has been employed since antiquity and is closely associated with Italian Renaissance painting.

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    Fresco may well be the word, but "The Last Supper" is actually not a fresco. It was painted on dry plaster, not on to fresh damp plaster.
    – James K
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 19:23
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    +1 Whether or not it's technically the right word, it's the word that immediately came to my mind, and which I think most people would use. (This would have been my answer had it not already been here.) Commented May 4, 2019 at 19:38
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    @JamesK My undestanding is that "The Last Supper" is in fact a fresco, but one made by someone not very experienced with/interested in what frescoes are, and not very interested in learning because they are the greatest genius ever. (I.e. a fresco, but a super poorly done one.) Commented May 4, 2019 at 20:34
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    I note that the word 'mural' appears in the definition
    – Strawberry
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 12:53
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    The Last Supper is, indeed, a fresco but it was painted when the plaster was dry, rather than being painted on wet plaster as most frescoes are done. The fact it was painted on dry plaster (secco) is one of the reasons it has deteriorated so severely.
    – lizth
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 19:32

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