the history of the painting and varnishing trade

origin of the painting and decorating trade

The painting and varnishing trade has come a long way to become the well-known skilled trade that it is today. This trade is responsible for the protection and upkeep of our surroundings as well as making them more aesthetically pleasing. Walls were already being coloured in some way in the ancient Egyptian and Greek civilisations. However, it was not until the time of the Roman state that expertise, skills and trades came over the Alps to Germany.

In the Middle Ages, signs were painted as tribal symbols; each Germanic tribe had specially painted signs (or Schilder). The people who carried out this work became known as Schilderer. The Schilderer were therefore the forefathers of those working in the painting and varnishing trade today. Cities and painters thrived in the 14th century; walls in churches, town halls, castles, and private houses belonging to the rich were decorated with murals. It was also at this time that Zünfte came into being – these were a type of guild for craft and tradespeople.

In the 15th century, the first Malerwappen (coats of arms for painters) emerged. It consisted of three white shields on a red background – later, there were also the three shields on a blue background. In the Middle Ages (beginning of the trade), not only artistic wall paintings were carried out. Before the professions of whitewasher and painter came into being, the whitewashing of walls was the bricklayer’s responsibility. The terms ‘housepainter’ and ‘decorator’ developed from these job titles.

With the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern age, the work of the painter became increasingly diverse. Secular and religious princes, earls, barons, merchants and cities were the patrons of the painters.

the painting and decorating trade from the 19th century to the present

The 19th century not only brought about significant changes politically, economically and socially, but also in the organisation of tradesmen. With the abolition of Zünfte, apprenticeships became increasingly flawed.

It was not until 1871 and the creation of the new German Empire  that associations attached to trades emerged in place of Zünfte; these were called Innungen and served as another type of guild for craft trades. Somewhat later, the German Painters’ Union, which is the main union for tradesmen in painting and varnishing today, became affiliated with the Innungen and so the painting trade was revived.

During the First and Second World Wars, the trade suffered greatly and endured a major setback. Following the Second World War, the professional trade organisation was gradually built up again. In 1965, the Crafts and Trade Code was amended and the trade was called ‘the painting and varnishing trade’ for the first time.

With the renewal of the Crafts and Trade Code in 1998, the painting and varnishing trade was extended to additional areas of activity such as all kinds of plasterwork, stucco work, drywalling, thermal insulation composite systems, textile wall coverings and repair work on car bodies and vehicles.