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History

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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 North America, are historically called I Madonnari in Italy, because they recreated images of the Madonna.

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.

In the 1980s, Kurt Wenner invented 3D pavement art, or one-point perspective art, inspired by anamorphic perspective, which appeared as proper perspective only when viewed from a specific angle.

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