Monday, June 25, 2018

Ancient Medium - Egg Tempera Painting, Part 7 - Techniques and Conclusion

Part 7 – Craft as much as Fine Art!

The painters of 2000 years ago didn’t have the tools and knowledge we have today to work in this medium.  We are fortunate to be furthering our craft with the help, and on the backs, of those many painters who went before.  We wouldn’t be the artists we are today without them!

Example of splattering effects on fabric
folds over gilding
Giovanni di Francesco Toscani
Firenze 1372-1430
Tempera on wood
Without the handy overnight orders from Amazon or trips to Jerry’s Artarama, artists then had to invent and make whatever tools and techniques they needed to achieve their desired goals.  Therefore, to some extent, the art of painting in any medium is as much craft as it is fine art.  If an artist then wanted a certain result they had to do whatever necessary to achieve it.  This may have meant certainly building or creating their own tools, devising techniques such as splattering or sponging, frowned upon by some experts in today’s artwork. The technique of sponging or airbrushing on the underpainting of large areas such as sky or large color fields can quicken the process of laying down enough layers to allow the painting to begin to materialize.  The process of actually painting whether with sponge, brush or other tools is a meditative one that demands mindful attention.

While there are many examples throughout museums around the world, I found some interesting examples of 15th century egg tempera paintings in Florence, Italy, at the Ospedale degli Innocenti that are as brilliant today as the day they were painted because of the polymerization of the egg molecules with the raw pigment (no linseed or other oils getting in the way).  What makes these most interesting to me is that these artists used techniques that some of today’s experts disparage as too crafty and not sufficiently academic (such as splattering or sponging).  I presume these two artists used the techniques then as we do now, to achieve a certain effect.  A couple of examples are shown below:

Example of sponging to mimic marble, shell or onyx

Giotto di Bondone
Firenze circa 1265-1337
Tempera on wood

Conclusion of Blog on Egg Tempera Painting - Thank you for your interest and following my blog.