For centuries, egg tempera was artists’ most well-liked medium for panel work, and lots of the medieval and renaissance masterpieces present in museums and artwork galleries had been executed in egg tempera. More sturdy than oil and with a luminosity comparable to watercolour, egg tempera affords many benefits to artists keen to embrace the problem of working with this historic medium.

For centuries, egg tempera was artists’ most well-liked medium for panel work, and lots of the medieval and renaissance masterpieces present in museums and artwork galleries had been executed in egg tempera. More sturdy than oil and with a luminosity comparable to watercolour, egg tempera affords many benefits to artists keen to embrace the problem of working with this historic medium.
Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (picture within the public area)

What is egg tempera?

Egg tempera is a type of paint that’s created by mixing egg yolk with powdered pigments and a little water.  Traditionally, tempera was utilized to picket panels, equivalent to poplar, coated with gesso.

Why use egg tempera?

Perhaps the best enchantment of egg tempera is the glowing high quality that it gives.  Tempera is extra clear than oil and holds much less pigment, which permits gentle to penetrate by way of it and replicate off the white floor of the gesso under.  Another benefit of egg tempera is that, not like oil work, it is resistant to gentle, and its colors don’t darken or change with age.

How else is egg tempera completely different from oil?

Tempera can’t be layered in the identical means as oil paint, and can’t be used to construct impasto. It additionally dries way more shortly, which means that artists should work on a small space at a time, increase successive layers of glazes utilizing small strokes and cross-hatching.  This makes it finest suited to high-quality, detailed work.

The history of egg tempera

Egg tempera was used within the historic world, together with within the famously life-like Fayum mummy portraits, produced in Egypt from across the 1st century BC to the third century AD.  In the early Christian period it was used to paint icons, a custom that has survived within the Eastern Orthodox Church till at present.

For centuries, egg tempera was artists’ most well-liked medium for panel work, and lots of the medieval and renaissance masterpieces present in museums and artwork galleries had been executed in egg tempera. More sturdy than oil and with a luminosity comparable to watercolour, egg tempera affords many benefits to artists keen to embrace the problem of working with this historic medium.
Fayum mummy portrait circa 100–120 AD
(picture within the public area)

While medieval artists adorned the interiors of church buildings and secular palaces in fresco, egg tempera was utilized in virtually all small-scale panel work till the Fifteenth century, when Flemish artists equivalent to Jan van Eyck (1390–1441) more and more favoured the medium of oil portray.

For centuries, egg tempera was artists’ most well-liked medium for panel work, and lots of the medieval and renaissance masterpieces present in museums and artwork galleries had been executed in egg tempera. More sturdy than oil and with a luminosity comparable to watercolour, egg tempera affords many benefits to artists keen to embrace the problem of working with this historic medium.
Michelangelo, The Manchester Madonna (picture within the public area)

The work of Michelangelo (1475–1564) brilliantly captures the turning level in Italian Renaissance artwork as painters change from egg tempera to the medium most well-liked by their northern counterparts: within the National Gallery, London, guests can normally observe two unfinished works, the Manchester Madonna, painted in egg tempera in round 1497, hanging subsequent to The Entombment, painted in oil in round 1500. From that point onwards oil turned the dominant medium till the nineteenth century, when it was as soon as once more adopted by the Pre-Raphaelites, who sought to return artwork to a perceived state of purity discovered earlier than 1500.

Egg tempera within the Twentieth century and past

While egg tempera has by no means been used as extensively as it was till the High Renaissance, a variety of Twentieth-century artists adopted the medium as their very own, together with Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978), Stanley Spencer (1891–1959), and Andrew Wyeth (1917–2009).

For centuries, egg tempera was artists’ most well-liked medium for panel work, and lots of the medieval and renaissance masterpieces present in museums and artwork galleries had been executed in egg tempera. More sturdy than oil and with a luminosity comparable to watercolour, egg tempera affords many benefits to artists keen to embrace the problem of working with this historic medium.
James Lynch, The Harvest, Mere Down , egg tempera on panel, 76 x 100 cm.
Image courtesy of and copyright James Lynch.

One artist who has been impressed each by the medieval masters and by Wyeth is the modern painter James Lynch, whose light-filled depictions of West Country skies and landscapes are extremely wanted by collectors. Lynch initially painted in oil or watercolour, however after educating himself to paint in tempera utilizing the Fifteenth-century handbook written by Cennino Cennini, has now been working within the medium for over twenty years.

For centuries, egg tempera was artists’ most well-liked medium for panel work, and lots of the medieval and renaissance masterpieces present in museums and artwork galleries had been executed in egg tempera. More sturdy than oil and with a luminosity comparable to watercolour, egg tempera affords many benefits to artists keen to embrace the problem of working with this historic medium.
James Lynch, Pink Bales, Mere Down , egg tempera on panel, 80 x 97 cm.
Image courtesy of and copyright James Lynch.

‘I was always impressed by the strength of colour and the glow of the medieval tempera paintings in the National Gallery. But I also loved the chalky layered subtlety of Andrew Wyeth’s work,’ Lynch explains.  ‘I felt that I’d pushed gouache and watercolour to it’s restrict and wanted a change.  I really like the truth that I’m portray with a dwelling medium, egg yolk, which accurately provides life to the paint. It has a waxy really feel to it, and begins to set as quickly as it meets the floor. It’s a matter of increase layers of glazes to achieve a wealthy floor. The extra one places in, the larger the reward.’  Lynch additionally enjoys the sensation of self-sufficiency that working in egg tempera gives, retaining his personal hens to present the regular provide of eggs that the medium requires, and making ready each a part of his work by hand.

What provides do you want to paint in egg tempera?

If you’re tempted to strive portray in egg tempera, the artwork provides you’ll want are:

  • Panels: poplar was mostly utilized by Italian Renaissance artists, and is extra sturdy than MDF.
  • Rabbit pores and skin glue and whiting, to create the gesso floor in your portray.
  • Egg yolks, fastidiously separated from the egg white.
  • Pigments: essentially the most well-known provider (utilized by Chagall) is Sennelier.
  • Soft hair and bristle brushes.
  • A ceramic palette for mixing.

How to combine egg tempera

Step 1: Carefully puncture the egg yolk over a glass jar, and discard the membrane.

Step 2: Add an equal quantity of water to the egg yolk, and stir.

Step 3: Mix the liquid with powdered pigment on the palette. Note that egg tempera dries shortly, so you have to to put together new paint every day.

Where can I be taught extra?

In the UK, The Royal Academy typically runs quick programs in portray in egg tempera. In the USA, The Society of Tempera Painters lists upcoming programs.