Curiouser and curiouser ...
|A knight striding with flag, bear, and sword. (Bern, Switzerland)
I'm officially a faculty member at the University of Zürich, and as such, you'd think I'd understand lots about Swiss culture. But I'm a newbie, a recent (and temporary) immigrant. I'm heading back to California at the end of the year.
1. Is there a name for this particularly Swiss kind of artwork-on-the-walls? Is there a particular name of the style in which most of them are drawn?
How to start?
I know that paintings on walls are often called frescos, so:
[ Swiss frescos ]
actually didn't work all that well. I found a couple new ones, but the new paintings I found were mostly interior frescos (a la the Sistine Chapel in Rome, probably the world's best known fresco). So it's pretty clear they're not called that. My next search:
[ Switzerland painting on exterior of buildings ]
worked a bit better. This led me to find that many people used the word "facade" with these paintings. My next query:
[ Switzerland facade painting ]
returned results that were pretty good. There were many more "Swiss exterior paintings" in the Images collection, but I still don't have a collective noun for these things. Besides, "facade" means "the principal front of a building, that faces on to a street or open space," which is nice, but it doesn't describe the paintings per se, but just where they're located.
On the other hand, this results page points to some great collections of these paintings. One of these links is to the wonderful paintings on buildings in Schaffhausen:
I put the full text of the link there because I noticed something odd. See that term in the URL "fassadenmalerei"? I don't know it... could it be a clue?
If you do a search on:
[ fassadenmalerei ]
you'll find a lot of sponsored links--ads for companies that paint the facades of buildings. The German word "fassaden" means "facades" and "malerei" means "painter," specifically of decorative paintings. So this makes sense--of course there are companies that will paint your facades, usually in elaborate geometric color schemes.
I looked at a few of their sites just to get a sense for the kind of work they do. Do any of them do paintings of the shown above?
The fourth site I looked at does something they call "wand-und-fassadenmalerei." Since "wand" means "wall," maybe we're getting a little closer. Their demo images include some of the type we seek.
While reading a few of these sites, I found another word that seems on our trail: "Lüftlmalerei." A quick search for:
[ Lüftlmalerei ]
takes us to the German Wikipedia entry, Lüftlmalerei, which tells us that
"... Lüftlmalerei (also spelled Lüftelmalerei ) refers to the art form of facade painting native to small towns and rural areas in southern Germany and Austria, especially in Upper Bavaria (Werdenfelser Land) and in Tyrol."
Well, that's interesting.
The region of Tyrol is in the far western part of Austria, bordering eastern Switzerland. Southern Germany is to the north and east of Switzerland, so it's definitely in the area.
Interestingly, when I asked my Swiss friends about this word, Lüftlmalerei, they mostly said they understood it as "air painting," and that it sounded somewhat familiar, but they also all said "it sounds like an Austrian word." (Apparently that second L, lüftlmalerei, gives it that uniquely Austrian sound.)
Looking at lüftlmalerei images shows us that this seems like the right word:
Some SRS Regular Readers wrote in (on one of our parallel syndications) about this Challenge.
Regular Reader Bill Janssen just knew that the word was probably “Wandmalerei." As we saw, that's certainly part of the answer.
Franz Miltner (who works in Ingelheim am Rhen) says “Not sure if there is a different term in Switzerland, but it's Lüftlmalerei in southern Germany and Austria."
Perhaps most notably, Regular Reader SpiritualLadder points out that:
You might not like this, but I literally put in your exact question with the image into ChatGPT and this is what I got:
(ChatGPT reply): "The artwork depicted in the image you've provided is reminiscent of a mural. In Switzerland, such murals are often associated with a long tradition of public art and can be reflective of various styles, from classical frescoes to more modern interpretations.
Specifically, in Switzerland and parts of Germany, there is a tradition known as "Lüftlmalerei," a style of mural painting that is particularly found in the alpine regions. This style often features pastoral scenes, historical figures, and local legends, and is characterized by its use of vibrant colors and intricate details to create a sense of three-dimensional space on flat surfaces."
When you google Lüftlmalerei, you find that it is present in Germany and Austria, so it sounds like it might not be the right answer, but they do look similar to the ones you posted...so it feels right. (Maybe it has a different Swiss name.) If it *is* the right answer, that would explain why it's hard to find!
I felt like ChatGPT (with vision) *might* be able to handle this kind of task well since it might have been trained on images of this style. The first time I prompted it with a different wording it wasn't as helpful, but putting in your exact question got me this answer!