Graffiti is an art form that is carried out by spraying cans of other materials with figures and / or texts on walls, for example. They also spray on trams, trains, buses and subways. Graffiti is illegal (illegal). It is not allowed and if you get caught you can be punished. In some cities there are places where you can spray (legally) on fences on spray-painted walls. For example, under the Amsterdam bridge. Many people also do it on a skating track because they think that it should be.

The first graffiti was showing your signature to show that you were somewhere. This is a tag. Later came the larger works of art that received a lot of attention. This is called a piece of a masterpiece.

In the dictionary, graffiti is described as: Figures or texts applied to a wall with a felt-tip pen or spray can. Graffiti is an art form and is often seen along highways, in tunnels, in metro tunnens and on abandoned buildings. Graffiti is often sprayed on something without permission that you call illegal. It is then sprayed on someone else’s property. There are places where graffiti is allowed. Those places are legal. Think of a skating rink or specially placed fencing for graffiti.

Graffiti often uses the spray cans that contain paint. You also have special paint markers. With graffiti you have a tag and a piece. A tag is a signature or a kind of scribble of a number of letters. It is set to show that you have been somewhere. A tag can be set quickly. Graffiti painters use a pseudonym or nickname. A piece of masterpiece is an entire work of art of letters, images, drawings and background on, for example, a wall. These pieces use precise work with lots of colors and pay attention to outlines and shading. An unwritten rule within the graffiti is also that one piece from another may not be overwritten.


To explain the meaning of the term graffiti, we must return to the Greek language. The Greek verb graphein means engraving, writing scratching. Derived from this is the Latin verb graffiare, which means scratching and scratching. The Latin graffio stands for scratch, graffito stands for scratch and graffiti stands for several scratches. Graffiti as we call it comes back from Italian and stands for putting pictures or announcements with paint or similar means in a public place.



Graffiti has a very long history. It started with wall drawings and hieroglyphics. It comes from the time of the Romans, Vikings, and Vandals. In ancient times, graffiti was usually meant to show that people had been somewhere. In Rome, remains of graffiti were found that were applied by the Romans themselves, but also remains that were applied by the Vikings. Graffiti has also been found on ancient Egyptian monuments and the walls of Pompeii. The Vandals originate from Scandinavia, but in the course of time they have traveled further south via Germany and, in addition to destruction, also left their graffiti traces behind. This is also where the concept of vandalism comes from.

Cave dwellers

Long ago, cave dwellers drew dyes on walls in caves. They mainly told hunting stories. In the caves of Lascaux (France) prehistoric rock paintings were discovered by children. The real original drawings are in a different place. The caves with the real drawings of about 30,000 years ago were closed to the public in 1963, because the breath of all people damaged the drawings too much.


The Roman city of Pompeii was buried in 79 under a thick layer of ash from the volcano Vesuvius, so that the city remained well preserved. This makes it one of the few places where you can study daily life in Roman times. Many old graffiti messages have been found on the old walls, such as: advertisements, political messages, names, poems, price lists, official announcements and philosophical slogans.

The amount of graffiti in Pompeii was overwhelming, which sometimes even surprised the inhabitants of the city, as is clear from the following inscription: “Oh walls, you now wear so much annoying graffiti, it surprises me that you have not yet collapsed” .

Second World War

During the Second World War it was all the rage among American soldiers to place the text: “Kilroy was here” wherever they went. Chad, the male staring over a wall. These graffiti are still found everywhere in the world. From the walls of public toilets to the top of the Statue of Liberty in New York.

Emergence of graffiti in the twentieth century

The emergence of graffiti in the twentieth century began in Philadelphia. In the early 1960s, youth gangs left their signature (tag) on ​​walls and buildings, and thus defined their territory. Other young people and political activists also took the habit of leaving a slogan or tag with a felt-tip pen.

In the late 1960s, New York youth took over the habit of street youth from Philadelphia to use their felt-tip pen to quickly put their alias on trains and subways. That signature is called the tag. In New York, the felt-tip pen was soon replaced by the spray can and spraying a subway train became the ideal way to reach millions of people.

Taki 183, a pizza delivery boy, is one of the first to write outside of his neighborhood. This is discovered because he puts his street number after his name. This method is soon adopted by most writers. In America, tagging is mainly practiced by young people from ghettos and disadvantaged neighborhoods. She wanted to have her own identity and be seen. By leaving a name or sign everywhere you could show your presence. By putting tags, groups of people (gangs) also defined their terrain.


When the writers start to realize how large their audience is, they start to incorporate more text into their pieces. Political opinions on topics such as war and equal rights are incorporated in this. Another goal than politics and to brighten up the boring city is the need to be better than the rest. In this way creativity becomes important. Different styles are developing: the wild style, the 3D style and the bubble style.

Subway stations are popular places to tag, because many people come here. Even more important are the trains themselves. It is increasingly difficult to stand out and the designs are also getting bigger. A larger surface can easily be covered by the invention of the spray can.

Stefan Eins opens the “Fashion Moda” gallery in 1978. In 1980, this gallery was the first to exhibit graffiti works in New York. In 1983/84, through the Amsterdam gallery owner Yaki Kornblit and Fashion Moda, graffiti entered the art world of the Netherlands; the Boymans Museum in Rotterdam and the Groninger Museum. This makes graffiti the first art movement that was started by the activities of young people and non-whites. In America it is a bit more difficult. The artists are not taken seriously as an artist. After the graffiti artists started working on canvas, different directions emerged. Everyone used letters on trains, on canvas this is released by some to start working abstractly or figuratively. In addition to the spray cans, acrylic paint and other materials are also used.

From the early 1970s, groups emerged for friendly reasons, unlike the graffiti gangs. These groups mainly focused on painting entire trains, dividing the work. In this way a whole subway train could be painted in one night.

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