Tempera Paintings Explained

When you look at the early Renaissance paintings, do they look a little different from the modern ones? Well, it looks as if the medieval paintings are made up of light. If you’re wondering what makes it look like that, it’s because of tempera.

So, long before Jan van Eyck made the versatile oil painting popular, tempera painting was the principal medium used extensively till the 15th century. Its usage dates back to eternity and was treasured by several painters (even now!)

Tempera painting technique creates jewel-like masterpieces that make the way for the labor-intensive work that it demands. And nothing beats to talk about Tempera painting from its origin, history, techniques used, etc. So, let’s get started.

What is Tempera Painting?

Tempera technique is a painting method that uses an emulsion of egg yolks, egg whites, or just whole eggs to mix with pigment paint. The word ‘tempera’ stems from the verb temper which means to ‘bring it to the desired consistency’. As the name suggests, the dry color pigments are tempered with a binder along with an adhesive to make it easier to paint unlike the Fresco painting lacks a binder.

Tempera replaced the encaustic painting method, only to be later replaced by the oil painting. This medium was mostly used to paint small scale paintings on wooden panels. Now, the use of this medium is only restricted to brave-hearted artists who are willing to bear the labor of creating their own paint along with the canvas. Although many variants of the medium are available on the market, some purists still believe in making it from scratch.

History of Tempera Painting

History of Tempera Painting

Tempera painting has been in use and the first few of the mediums painting could be traced back to Egyptian sarcophagi and even in the Fayum mummy portraits. A similar painting technique can also be found in the ancient paintings that were found in several caves and temples of India like Bagh Caves. However, one can find the technique flourishing from the 13th to the 15th centuries also famously known as the Italian Renaissance.

Il libro dell’arte, by the painter Cennino Cennini, has all the techniques of Italian tempera painting and remains the most important source of information for the tempera medium. However, the world was riding on radical illusionism, and it made all the way more sense to use oil painting. Fortunately, tempera still survived the tough luck as the Orthodox monasteries continued to use it for aesthetic and theological reasons.

Various Aspects of Tempera Painting

Various Aspects of Tempera Painting

Egg tempera

To make the egg tempera, the egg yolk is used alongside some agents like vinegar in variable proportions to save the paint from cracking up. The powdered pigment is grounded with distilled water and then mixed with the binder to prepare the paint. Once made, the tempera paint cannot be stored. Although egg tempera is water-resistant, it’s not waterproof.

Pigments and Grounds Used

The pigments that were used by the medieval painters were highly toxic. Although now modern artists use synthetic pigments, they are still dangerous and precautions should be taken. This medium adheres best to the ground with lower oil content than the binder used. Traditionally inflexible Italian gesso was used where wooden panels were used as the substrate.

How to Apply?

The tempera paint dries super quickly that’s why it is applied in thin layers to achieve the greatest precision possible. Tempera painting also requires a cross-hatching technique and as it dries out to give out a smooth, matte finish. Two of the most important techniques used in tempera paintings are direct colors and glazing.

Famous Tempera Artists

During the Medieval and Renaissance period, almost all the masterpiece paintings were made with tempera. There is a long list of masters who championed the use of this labor-intensive technique like Beato Angelico, Piero Della Francesca, Botticelli, etc.

But, once the oil painting took over, tempera painting only made a comeback in the 1900s. Several artists like Marc Chagall, Andrew Wyeth took over in the middle 20th century and started using the tempera medium extensively.

Famous Paintings that were made with Tempera

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus by the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli depicts the arrival of goddess Venus at the shore after she emerges a full-grown lady, naked after her breath. This painting is among the most iconic paintings of the Italian Renaissance. Besides, this painting has been a part of the personal collection of the Medicii family for over 100 years.

Christina’s World by Andrew Wyeth

This painting made in 1948, uses egg tempera on a gessoed panel. It is also one of the best-known 20th-century American paintings. Wyeth used the tempera medium to depict a woman lying on a grassy field which her bison fixed on the house at a distance.

The Bottom Line,

Now that you know all about Tempera painting, are you ready to learn it? If not, then, maybe you’d like to be the owner of one such gorgeous masterpiece. You can get yourself a museum quality handmade reproduced tempera painting from one of the masters from here the renowned https://www.1st-art-gallery.com.