Painted furniture dates back all the way back to the beginning of organized societies. The first recognized society is the Egyptians who really perfected gilding and the art of painting. The art was significant as part of their rituals and preparation for the afterlife. The method they used was to paint wooden pieces with a white undercoat and then apply color and gilding. The method of painting has not changed much since then!
As painting spread to Greece and Rome, the importance of the decorative expression remained. Throughout the Middle Ages, talented people were hired as wood carvers, painters, and gilders. They concentrated their work towards secular furniture and objects of religious meaning such as altars. The cathedrals became more elaborate with decorative elements.
With the Renaissance and exposure of oriental cultures, decorative painting began to transform. Most notably was the introduction to Chinese lacquer. As imitation was developed of the lacquer, painted furniture began to be more refined into the 18th century.
Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), 19th century, Korea
Lacquered wood with mother-of-pearl,
tortoiseshell, sharkskin, and brass-wire inlay, and brass fittings
Ming Yongle Period Imperial Lacquer Box with Dragons, MET Museum
Through different eras, design moved and still does move from having a level of curve to be more rigid.
“Furniture has proved an ideal medium for society to enhance surroundings. Color and form introduced into our homes can provide personal expression and vibrant visual experiences. What began so long ago is now a part of our interior environment.”