Tempera, from the Latin “temperare“, to blend, to mix. A watery, oily emulsion made from egg and oil and resin, with the addition of casein, dilutable with water, depending on fat content. In addition there are cherry tree gum and casein tempera. Casein is low-fat curd cheese and lime or borax plus resin and oil.
In the Middle Ages these substances and pigments were used as the priming coat, as for example in the so-called Grisaille, or grey painting. Oil or resin glazes were painted on this priming coat, and the so-called white highlights refined the plasticity of the painting. This so-called mixed technique permitted a refinement using less oil than in pure oil painting. Van Eyck, one of the most important painters, born in 1890 in Masseick and died in 1441 in Bruges, created his expressive paintings using this technique. More recently, Otto Dix and Böcklin used this technique.
Since 1983 I have worked with this technique. I spent one year working on color and form studies of Grünewald, based on the Straßburg Manuscript and other sources, experimenting with wood and canvas from pure egg painting or so-called Tüchlein painting, in part with silverpoint underdrawing, to Grisaille underpainting with subsequent glazing. I used this technique in the three commissioned Grünewald copies and later time and again in my own paintings.
In oil painting the yellowing process that affects blue colors plays an important role. In the purity of the blue colors in Böcklin’s work one can see that he worked in tempera technique.
For me it is particularly appealing to use tempera technique in portraits or in the priming coat, as it acts differently than acrylic painting.
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