Fresco in Art

Fresco in Art

A fresco is a form of wall painting, deriving its name from the Italian word ‘fresco’ because it's created on wet plaster.

A fresco is a form of wall painting, with its name derived from the Italian word for ‘fresh’ because plaster is applied to the walls while still wet. There are two methods for fresco painting: buon fresco and fresco a secco. In both methods, layers of fine plaster are applied to the wall surface. The second-to-last layer, known as the arriccio, serves as the base for drawing the cartoon. The final layer of very smooth plaster is called the intonaco.

In buon fresco, paint is applied to the wet intonaco, with only as much plaster as can be painted in a single day being spread on the wall. This method ensures a strong bond between the fresco and the wall, and each day's work is referred to as a ‘giornata’. In fresco a secco, paint is applied when the surface is dry, either on top of dried buon fresco or on a dry intonaco.

The technique for detaching frescoes and transferring them to a new support has been known since at least the 16th century.

Other words in the glossary

Building your collection? We can help.

Your questions, answered

Parra's studio, with Parra at the centre, his back to the camera as he works on the large painting takes centre stage, showing a faceless blue woman in a striped dress, painted in red, purple, blue and teal. The studio is full of brightly coloured paints, with a large window on the right and a patterned rug across the floor under the painting.