Fresco is the Italian word for “fresh”, and that’s because painters do fresco painting on fresh, wet plaster walls. That way the colors really sink in to the plaster, and you get a glowing kind of color that is very different from what you would get if you just painted on top of the dry plaster.
People have been doing fresco painting for a long time. The earliest frescoes we know of come from Bronze Age Greece, about 1600 BC. Only about a hundred years later, Minoan painters were traveling from Crete to Israel and to Egypt to paint fresco paintings on the walls of the palaces there.
In the Middle Ages, frescoes were very popular in Italy. Frescoes were a lot cheaper than the older style of having mosaic pictures on the walls. Some famous artists who worked in fresco are Cimabue, Giotto, and Fra Angelico.
Ancient Greek Art, by Susie Hodge (1998)- for kids ages 9-12.
Minoan and Mycenaean Art, by Reynold Higgins (2nd revised edition 1997). The standard book for college students.
Roman Painting, by Roger Ling (1991). This is a detailed account of the different styles of Roman fresco painting.
The Art of Fresco Painting in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, by Mary P. Merrifield (2004).