Street painting


Street painting has been recorded throughout Europe since the 16th century. Street Painters, (also called chalk artists) a name these performance artists are most commonly called in the USA are historically called I Madonnari in Italy (singular form: madonnaro or madonnara) because they recreated images of the Madonna. In England they are called Screevers and in Germany Strassenmaler (street: straßen, painter: maler).

The Italian I Madonnari were itinerant artists, many of whom had been brought into the cities to work on the huge cathedrals. When the work was done, they needed to find another way to make a living, and thus would often recreate the paintings from the church onto the pavement. Aware of festival and holy days in each province and town, they traveled to join in the festivities to make a living from observers who would throw coins if they approved of the artist’s work. For centuries I Madonnari were folk artists, reproducing simple images with crude materials such as tiles, coal and chalk until World War II disrupted their tradition and reduced their numbers.

In 1972, a street painting was being promoted again by the formation of a festival in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy and today the performance art-form is recognized all over the world.

Today this work is called 3d Street Painting, 3D Pavement Art, 3D Chalk Art, 3D Sidewalk Art, 3D Illusion, anamorphic or 3D, although in the past it was called one-point perspective.


The first known street painter in the US was Sidewalk Sam, who began painting in the streets of Boston in 1973.

In 1982 Kurt Wenner, an American, began street painting in Rome. By 1983 he took the already-existing anamorphic art form to the street by drawing, then brushing, his home-made pastels into a painting. In 1984 he was documented by National Geographic in their film Masterpieces In Chalk. That same year he won the title of „Maestro Madonnaro” („best” or „featured” chalk artist) at the Grazie festival.

Later in the early 1990s Michael Kirby began to work in Europe as a street painter creating more original work based on contemporary issues and not on classical ideas and designs. He would go on to become a master street painter in all the major festivals across Europe including Germany, Italy, and Holland. He would later bring the art form to other countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ireland, Canada, and various parts of the United States. His work was featured at the Smithsonian Institution in DC, National Geographic, David Letterman Show, North Carolina Museum of Art, Rai Television, and others. Today his studio, Murals of Baltimore, is hired to create public art around the world and is considered the leader in street painting.


Edgar Müller

Kurt Wenner


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