Tempera

Tempera refers to paint containing a binder of egg. Its vehicle is water, which dilutes the paint but evaporates during drying. Tempera produces a very durable but somewhat brittle paint film. It is usually applied to a rigid wooden panel (Color Plate 7) that has been coated with gesso, a mixture of animal glue, water, chalk, and, at times, white pigment. The rigid support (typically made of wood) prevents the paint film from flexing enough to cause cracking or flaking. In order to maintain binding strength and avoid adhesion problems between layers, the paint must not be diluted excessively with water. As a result, tempera paint is not very fluid compared to other media. The paint dries rather quickly to an unusually luminous and brilliant film.

Tempera has sometimes been used in conjunction with other painting media. In fresco, it is the secco overlying the fresco when alterations are required, or it is used in the application of certain pigments (containing copper, such as azurite) that are incompatible with the alkalis in the plaster. It has also been commonly used as an underpainting, over which layers of opaque and/or transparent oil paint are applied. Because tempera dries quickly (within minutes), the painter can establish value and compositional arrangements without the delays required by the

Fig. 2.8. Vaccination, Diego Rivera, 1932. Charcoal with red pigment, 2.55 X 2.20 m. Cartoon for south wall of Detroit Industry, Detroit Institute of Arts.

The cartoon is a full-scale drawing that is transferred to the prepared wall prior to painting.

Fig. 2.8. Vaccination, Diego Rivera, 1932. Charcoal with red pigment, 2.55 X 2.20 m. Cartoon for south wall of Detroit Industry, Detroit Institute of Arts.

The cartoon is a full-scale drawing that is transferred to the prepared wall prior to painting.

Detroit Industry Rivera

Fig. 2.9. Photo of Vaccination in situ. North wall of Detroit Industry, Diego Rivera, 1932. Fresco.

It is only within the context of the architectural space in which they function that frescos can be fully appreciated. The painted image and the architecture of the space are fully integrated.

Fig. 2.9. Photo of Vaccination in situ. North wall of Detroit Industry, Diego Rivera, 1932. Fresco.

It is only within the context of the architectural space in which they function that frescos can be fully appreciated. The painted image and the architecture of the space are fully integrated.

much more slowly drying oil medium, often requiring days of drying before subsequent layers can be applied. Alterations at this stage of the painting may be much easier to accomplish using the quicker-drying tempera. Some pigments, usually those containing high concentrations of copper (azurite or malachite), tend to discolor oil binders, so they have been ground in egg instead. Resulting paint films may have alternating layers of tempera and oil paint.

The Annunciation, by Dierick Bouts (Figure 2.10), was painted in a medium known as distemper. The binder is animal glue, usually made from the skin of rabbits. This is a very strong glue, used in gesso, and commonly used as an adhesive in the fabrication of furniture. As in the case with the egg binder used in tempera, animal glue is diluted with water. The paint is very brittle and often fragile. It must also be applied to a rigid support, or when applied to canvas, as in the case of the Bouts Annunciation, applied very thinly, almost as a kind of stain. When painted

Fig. 2.10. Annunciation, Dierick Bouts, c. 1450-55. Distemper on canvas, 90 X 74.5 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Distemper is a paint with a binder of animal hide glue. This example is unusual in that the paint was applied to a support of canvas. More typically, distemper is applied to a rigid support in order to compensate for the brittle character of the paint film. The paint in the Annunciation is extremely thin—almost a stain.

Fig. 2.10. Annunciation, Dierick Bouts, c. 1450-55. Distemper on canvas, 90 X 74.5 cm, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Distemper is a paint with a binder of animal hide glue. This example is unusual in that the paint was applied to a support of canvas. More typically, distemper is applied to a rigid support in order to compensate for the brittle character of the paint film. The paint in the Annunciation is extremely thin—almost a stain.

on canvas, the distemper has a very matte surface. It can produce a very luminous and highly reflective surface (similar to porcelain or enamel) if applied in layers on a panel.

Other media related to tempera are gouache and casein. Gouache has a binder of gum arabic, a natural gum produced by the acacia tree. Sometimes referred to as opaque watercolor, gouache is indeed extremely opaque in normal usage. It dries very quickly to a matte surface. This, too, produces a rather brittle film. It is usually used on panels or paper.

Casein (an example is given in Chapter 3) shares some of the characteristics of tempera and gouache. It is diluted with water and dries to a matte film. The binder in this case is the solids of skim milk. Casein glue made from these solids is extremely strong and when dry is insoluble in water. Due to the insolubility of the dried film, casein lends itself to work requiring layers of color or to artists who rely on making revisions by overpainting. It produces a film with slightly more luster than gouache, and like gouache is normally used as an opaque color.

Fig. 2.11. Portrait of a Woman, Romano-Egyptian, c. a.d. 100-125. Encaustic and gilt on wood panel wrapped in linen, 55 X 35 cm. The J. Paul Getty Museum.

The presence of wax as a binder in the paint gives the painting a rich, luminous quality. Wax is also a relatively permanent substance, which accounts for the very good condition of many encaustic paintings from this period.

Fig. 2.11. Portrait of a Woman, Romano-Egyptian, c. a.d. 100-125. Encaustic and gilt on wood panel wrapped in linen, 55 X 35 cm. The J. Paul Getty Museum.

The presence of wax as a binder in the paint gives the painting a rich, luminous quality. Wax is also a relatively permanent substance, which accounts for the very good condition of many encaustic paintings from this period.

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Freehand Sketching An Introduction

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