Tempera paintings, (specifically made of egg tempera) were the most common choice for artists before oil became the dominant western paint medium during the High Renaissance. Browse our online tempera paintings gallery below to see an incredible selection of tempera paintings for sale —from realist to expressionist to abstract.
Tempera painting was used for adorning sarcophagi in Roman-occupied Egypt as well ancient Hindu temples in India. The medium was also used extensively in medieval Europe, primarily for the many sacred panel paintings created by Greek and Roman iconography artists during that period. Oils eventually gained favor among painters, especially in the Netherlands, though some Italian and many Greek and Russian artists continued to use the older medium. Tempera paintings enjoyed a revival, however, in the nineteenth century when groups of artists (e.g. Pre-Raphaelites, the Nazarenes, etc.) called for a return to older ideals and techniques. Likewise, the 20th century ushered in a significant tempera revival among groups of artists across the world, notably the Art Students League of New York, Social Realists, and artists of the Bengal school in India.
Some of the world’s most renowned tempera paintings created before the 17th century include: “Maesta” (1308-11) and “Stroganoff Madonna and Child” (1300) by Duccio Di Buoninsegna; “The Annunciation: (1432-34) by Fra Angelico; “Virgin and Child”; “The Battle of San Romano” (1440) by Paolo Uccello; “Birth of Venus” (1482-86) and “La Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli; “Pieta” (1494-95) by Perugino; “Supper at Emmaus” (1601) by Caravaggio. English Romantic poet and artist William Blake was known for creating tempera works including “The Last Supper” (1799), “Eve Tempted by the Serpent” (1799-1800) and “The Spiritual Form of Pitt Guiding Behemoth” (1805). Notable tempera artists of the late 19th and 20th century include Edvard Munch, Otto Dix, Andrew Wyeth, Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollack, Bridget Riley, George Tooker, and Paul Cadmus.
The traditional method of creating tempera paint is to use egg yolk as a binder for the dried pigment. This gelatinous mixture is then thinned with water. Tempera is a quick-drying paint that is typically applied in many transparent layers (i.e. ‘glazes’) to a pre-treated surface (usually a wooden panel) until the desired color saturation is achieved--making it a time-consuming process requiring much patience and skill. To obtain greater definition, tempera can be applied with a nearly-dry brush using a series of short unidirectional or crosshatch strokes, depending on the desired effect. The medium will dry to a matte finish. If more saturation is desired, the artist may apply a varnish which will deepen the colors. Also, if the artist desires color effects similar to oil paints, oil can be added to the paint in a 1:1 ratio with the egg yolk--a medium known as ‘tempera grassa.’