The Idea of the Mural

A painting that can never be moved: a painting that viewers can only move around; 'mural', this form of site-specific art, is a relatively marginal phenomenon in contemporary London, although various painters (from Banksy to Richard Wright) have focused on it. Julian Bell discusses the historical reasons why England has not had a great mural tradition of its own but also explores the powerful attraction that the idea of the mural has held for painters in England - above all, through their worship of the great Italian frescoists.  What attitudes - mental, physical and social - does mural painting typically propose? And how might makers of movable images, such as canvases or prints, adapt and draw strength from the mindset of the muralist?

Julian Bell is a painter who teaches at the Royal Drawing School. What is Painting?, his book about theories of art, was published in 2017. His next solo exhibition, When the City is Built, opens at the Menier Gallery in Southwark in October 2019.