Which are the 6 street art history facts you should get to know by now?

street art history

Contemporary art lovers show great interest for the newest styles and trends around the world. However, it should be important to point out how did this urban culture start. Let’s recap together some facts about street art history.

Similarly to what happens with other industries/communities, there are millions of people interested in post-graffiti. Thus we should pay tribute to whom created it. Moreover, we would like to state that any of the information shared in this website might be used to complete an essay or any other educational activity.

The beginnings of the street art history

Today’s article will dig deep into the street art history. We will focus from the moment where the first paintings started in prehistory to the modern movements developed afterwards.

To start with, we should mention that several societies (better called empires) have observed the influence that painting had in people’s lives. For instance, traditions and languages.

In the same vein, art does not only serve as a way to express feelings, but also as a strategy to protest and represent the problems that exist in the humanity.

1-. It all started during prehistory with cave men and cave women

cave paintings
Lascaux caves in France as photographed by Jack Versloot

Street art history dates back to 30000 years ago. Imagine yourself during the Prehistory. What materials would you have used in order to paint in the cave walls?

According to National Geographic, Lascaux cave paintings in France are one of the earliest discoveries in art. By that time, people made use of minerals, rocks and pigments from plants in order to create their animal illustrations on walls.

Moreover, they represented horses and reindeer during the Paleolithic. Consequently, if we would have to point out when art started, could we set this era as art beginnings?

2-. Street art history around the Egyptian, Greek & Roman Empires

ancient street art history
Gladiators from Pompeii at the Naples National Archaeological Museum. Image: Darren Puttock (Flickr)

Next moment to be added in the street art history corresponds to Egyptians. They painted hieroglyphics to talk about pharaohs. Furthermore, their art dates back to 5000 years ago and we could highlight pyramids as the earliest art museums.

Afterwards, approximately in VIII BC Greek great philosophers such as Pythagoras, Socrates or Plato used writings to represent their ideas. As a matter of fact, the word ‘graffiti’ comes from the Greek ‘graphi’ which means to write.

In the same vein, the democratic purpose of allowing different social strata to be present in public spaces and their voices to be heard was present at the Roman Empire. Graffiti was used in the 79 A.D in cities like Pompeii and Herculaneum.

3-. Messages during the World War II

Street art history during World War II
Military memories

‘Kilroy was here’ is one of the most important tags to be included at any street art history essay. The illustration recorded the military members hopes and fears during the WWII.

The tag appeared almost everywhere American soldiers went, but it is not the only characteristic about the world’s most cruel event. Another example is shown at airplanes, where soldiers drew pin-up girls with the stencil techniques.

As you may see, there exists more than just as an aesthetic element in art. Graffiti during 1939- 1945 had an optimistic element for those brave men and women who fought for other people’s rights.

Street art history in the contemporary era

Secondly, we will focus on those street art history aspects after the Great War. Oppositely to what happened during ancient times, urban art spread around the world; not just at specific societies/moments.

People started using it on the streets. Moreover, is graffiti art or vandalism? Although some people categorize it as destructive, urban art is nowadays widely used by city councils to promote cultural activities.

Lastly, we will inform you about the current situation of Spanish mural urban artists and the graffiti movement in Madrid.

4-. American graffiti & the 70s subway graffiti

the street art history and american graffiti
Artist: Mitch 77 Photo circa 1980s shared by Jennifer Juniper

Above all, the street art history could not be understood without analyzing the early painting that graffiti writers did in New York city (United States). It was there where hundreds of teenagers and young adults spread their tags around the city.

They did not only paint over building walls, but also in subway trains. They used wagons as canvas because it was the easiest way for their names to be spread all over the city. Imagine trains moving from one NYC place to another in just a matter of hours.

Taki183, Futura2000 and Seen are some of the most famous names related American graffiti. What’s interesting about them is that they became that relevant figures that art gallery owners showcase their artworks at seasonal exhibitions.

5-. Muralism

Artwork by Mr Trazo
Artist: Mr. Trazo (Spain)

Another aspect that we have observed in the Spanish street art history is how the number of mural artworks have increased. Festivals and private commissions decorate huge facades with colorful decorations.

Artists use their spray painting skills to beautifully add critical thinking in the streets. They include current problems that we could observe in our societies: feminism, immigration, racism or equal rights.

Who are some of the most talented emergent artists at this European country?

  • Dadospuntocero,
  • Lalone,
  • Javier Lobo,

6-. Madrid street art history (Spain)

muelle is a pioneer in Madrid street art history
Artist: Muelle Location: Calle Montera (Madrid) Picture: Marta Nimeva Nimeviene

Last but not least, we wanted to show our audience why Madrid is relevant not only to understand the street art history, but also to understand how the graffiti was influenced by the Spanish dictatorship.

Have you ever heard about ‘La Movida madrileña‘? This counter cultural movement appeared during the 80s in the Spanish capital city. Adults changed their lifestyle, and we should mention the introduction of arts in the cultural scene.

Likewise, Madrid’s graffiti pioneer Muelle is now recognized as the most relevant figure of our recent street art history. Unfortunately, Juan Carlos Argüello passed away, but his followers continue his legaly.

Cooltourspain’s opinion about the street art history

Part of our team members are educators within different levels (i.e Elementary & High school) and they use these resources as activities within their lessons.

The street art history should be introduced in the school curriculum and all these characteristics about urban art made us interested in continuing learning about the topic.

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