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The Practice of Tempera Painting (Dover Art Instruction) [Paperback]

Daniel V. Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Jan 2000 Dover Art Instruction
Historical background, step-by-step instruction, materials, permanence. Lucid, careful exposition of all aspects of authentic technique. 85 illustrations.

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The Practice of Tempera Painting (Dover Art Instruction) + Craftsman's Handbook (Dover Art Instruction) + The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting (Dover Art Instruction)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications Inc. (3 Jan 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780486203430
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486203430
  • ASIN: 0486203433
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.8 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential 18 July 2008
By blofeld
Daniel Thompson's book was written in the 1930's and was based on the earlier writings of Cenini( C16th?), and because of this, it has been held up as the definitive book on painting with egg tempera. It isn't. What it does do, however, is desribe a methodology that had it's roots in the Renaissance. Mr Thompson describes how to make the correct grounds for this type of painting and the unique properties of this paint (good and bad). There is also some useful information on gilding. Where the book is not so accurate is in the emphasis on a monochrome underpainting. Modern analysis of early renaissance paintings show that very few had such an underpainting. Mr Thompson's directions would also have you believe that the medium is inflexible and only a highly systematic and controlled approach will work. This is too dogmatic and a weakness of the book. Overall, though it is a marvelous description of how to paint with egg tempera, and considering the price, a bargain. If you are interested in egg tempera, get this book and also Robert Vickrey's "New techniques in Egg Tempera" (Watson Guptill). This book gives a good overview to a much more improvised method and has lots of colour pictures (unlike the Thompson book). It is out of print but easy to find via Abebooks. Get them both.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In my opinion "The best book on the subject" 17 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book takes you back to basic fundamentals, such as - which colours are best in this medium and then advances step by step to an advanced level
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5.0 out of 5 stars Art History 24 Mar 2014
By Patrick
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent book full of lots of interesting points and facts writing in the context of time and subject. Perfect for research purposes and supplies some timeless information
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 15 Aug 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good source of information to be used again and again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
82 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything You Wanted to Know About Tempera... 2 Jan 2002
By hamsterdance - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are not many books available on tempera painting mainly because few artists these days have either the time or the patience to grind their own pigments and mix them into a binder. For anyone who does have such an interest egg tempera is a fascinating and beautiful medium to learn. Anyone who has ever tried to scrape off dried egg yolk from a plate will soon realize how incredibly durable a binder it makes for a painting medium. The Practice of Tempera Painting covers a lot of subjects in-depth. Everything from preparing the surface, pigment to egg to water ratios, discussions of various pigments to actual instructions for the traditional hatching and cross-hatching brushstroke technique is shown.
The only section readers today might want to supplement is reading up on a more up-to-date book on pigments. Many of the pigments discussed in Thompson's book, while still available, are now known to present health risks. Modern pigments that are safer and just as lightfast (in some cases even more lightfast) are now available that Thompson and painters of the 1930's didn't have. Other than that one caveat this book is a great introduction to egg tempera painting.
67 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable Book! 15 Aug 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This excellent introduction to egg tempera is invaluable to oil painters as well. Thompson's writing is filled with humor and wit, making the book very readable.
I was delighted to discover that, unlike so many books about painting techniques, Thompson's is clear and thorough without being a condescending "how to" manual. It also avoids being mired in footnotes and tedious tangential detail. It is obvious that he speaks from the perspectives of both painter and scholar. The only drawback is that the reproductions are in black and white, but as this was standard when the volume was written it is forgivable.
This book will prove informative for artists, teachers, and museum professionals (I am all three) who are in search of solid information on tempera painting. Look no further and enjoy the read!
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good intro to a traditional technique 14 July 2005
By wiredweird - Published on
This is, as the title promises, a very good foundation for any artist interested doing traditional egg tempera painting, or for any art lover who wants to know more about the medium itself. It covers everything from mixing gesso accoording to traditional recipes, to framing and care of the finished work. For me, though, that's the least of it.

First, it's an incredible reference on the tools and techniques of water gilding. It limits itself to gilding as it works with tempera painting and frames, but is exhaustive within that scope. It discusses everything from the laying the bole ground to burnishing, then tinting the finish. Although this emphasizes traditional tools and materials, the author isn't afraid to use modern aids, like rubber cement masks. By the way, anyone who wants to use scrapers to smooth the gesso ground, as this author suggests, should consult a woodworker's guide for directions on sharpening the scraper. A little extra effort up front makes a world of difference in the scraper's performance.

Second, it's a fascinating historical document. Although the book was written in the early 20th century, most of its recipes go back to medieval times, maybe earlier. Therein lies a potential problem, though. Back then people were a bit less careful about pigments like lead white and mercury-based vermilion. Since egg tempera doesn't keep well in wet form, the artist must use many pigments in their hazardous dry form. The practitioner should review the safety of pigments and techniques very carefully before trying the directions in this book.

Still, it's interesting to read about the daily practice of art, including the artist's relationship to a pigment supplier, from a time so different from our own. The recipes, too, have an antiquated sound. I'm not sure I've ever seen sandarac, for example, let alone the range of colors all identified as "vermilion."

This isn't just history, though. It needs some adjustment for modern safety and materials, but it's a very practical guide to everything there is to know about the many techniques in tempera painting.

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for all artists, not just "yeggs" 12 Feb 2009
A Kid's Review - Published on
This luminous book is a real introduction to the "indirect" method of painting: the use of translucent layers to build the glow seen in both Fra Angelico's pure tempera and Rembrandt's oils.

Many beginning artists have a "mental model" of painting *alla prima* on a white primed canvas, but this method only dates to the Impressionists. By the 1840s, the older method, of starting out in monochrome with warm pigments and a middle toned ground, had produced a by-then wearisome academic look known as the "brown soup".

But before the brown soup of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the tempera painters of the Middle Ages started out, in somewhat the same way as the Impressionists, on a brilliant white surface, gesso on wood.

Thompson shows the student how to use the considerable amount of reflected light from this ground by painting not opaquely ("we are not doing gouache!"), nor transparently like Titian and Veronese, but translucently, obscuring and refining form in thin layers of pure pigment.

Amazingly, in egg tempera, you can get brilliant yellows using only "yellow ochre", an earth tint, for yellow. This is because each color, properly applied in this fast-drying media, works with the white of the ground to produce restrained, yet brilliant effects.

Don't look at Andrew Wyeth for these effects: although a brilliant artist in egg tempera, Wyeth was uninterested in color apart from the tertiary. Look instead upon Fra Angelico, and for even more brilliant effects, examine how Jan van Eyck combined the slightly paler color of tempera with oil glazes.

Of course, you may not have access to the raw materials Thompson specifies. Unless you are a carpenter, it may be hard to find, evaluate and reinforce the wood panels required for classic tempera (canvas is too flexible for tempera). You also need powder colors, powder gesso, and "rabbit skin glue".

The powder colors, as another poster points out, may be hazardous, and many vegetarian and vegan artists today may not want their paintings to include the glue produced by bunny rabbits.

However, if you learn the classic method from Thompson, being careful to not use hazardous colors and using synthetic glue, you can use the approach in acrylics on canvas. Acrylics when sufficiently diluted and when applied with sable and round bristle brushes as is classic egg tempera, can create effects similar to those of tempera, and then can be glazed to produce 16th century Flemish effects.

Having learned from Thompson, I save a lot of money, since the only colors I need to make a painting are Mars black and titanium white for the underlying *grisaille*, and black, white, cadmium red, Winsor blue, and yellow ochre for the final work. Here in China, the fine sable brushes recommended by Thompson are quite inexpensive.

Even just reading this book will help you understand art far better than the 99% of slobs who troop to the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, barbarically touching the sculptures and paintings with their apish paws (don't get me started...).
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! 24 Mar 2013
By breathingwithbothlungs - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have wanted this book for years and now I have it. While his technique is different from the one I have learnt Thompson has so much that is worthwhile to say that this book is a must-have for any serious tempera painter. Well worth the investment.
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