Farm Road (A Helga painting), 1979
Tempera on masonite
27 1/8 X 28
REBIRTH OF THE TEMPERA TECHNIQUE
One of the earliest types of painting known to obtain a high degree of technical accuracy was tempera. The medium engages water with a base of glue: either animal (egg, honey, gelatine, cheese, or vegetable), or gum (gum arabic, gum of the cherry tree and fecula). Its uses date back to the primitive paintings of the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Tempera was also used by the early Florentines in the 15th Century, and famously mastered in works such as The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli.
Subsiding with the Great Masters of the Renaissance, the technique was perceived as impossible to produce realistic effects of the third dimension. It proved difficult to control: due to its rapid evaporation of water, an artist could not work quickly enough to sustain a figure in the atmosphere. The paint dried too fast for the artist to blend or glaze, leaving the image in a flat tone. It was Jan Van Eyck (1382?-1441?), that popularized a new era of incorporating oils into tempera, which allowed for a more pliable medium, freeing the artist from time and dimensional constraints. Thereafter, the popularity of tempera was left behind as primitive.
Diminished for centuries, the awakening of tempera has been on the rise. The Pre-Raphelites, a small group established in 1848, made efforts to explore it, hoping to return to the ways of classic art. However, it wasn’t until the past few decades that the medium began to gain in popularity.
There is an enchantment possessed by the tempera medium. The limitations in the technique offer a flat decorative quality that stands in great contrast to the masses of heightened color variation and form not found in oils. Present day artists are captivated by this, hoping to obtain and recreate the medium’s mastery.