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arbrador 12-10-17 04:35 AM

Technical Tempera Conference in Munich 3/18
Hi All~
I came across this announcement for a technical tempera conference taking place in Munich in March of 2018. It looks amazing! Is anyone going ?

This link lists all the workshops and much much more.

Truly exciting!!!

~Lora Arbrador

Koo Schadler 13-10-17 06:58 PM

Looks fascinating Lora, wish I could go but it's not in my plans. Thanks or bringing it to the Forum's attention, and if anyone manages to attend, please report back!


arbrador 16-10-17 03:28 AM

Here is a link to the abstracts for all of the lectures.

It seems to me a lot of the discussion will be about mixed oil and egg techniques—a topic that pops up frequently on the forum.

The 3 day conference includes a day of workshops. Here is the link to the workshops:

Of course the conference includes a Bavarian feast one night!

arbrador 13-02-18 04:06 AM

Egg Tempera Conference
Hi Everyone~
I'm signed up for the Technical Egg Tempera conference in Munich 3/15-17. Is anyone else going? I'm not sure what it will be like but could not resist the opportunity plus I have a dear friend in Austria who I will visit.

Does anyone have any burning questions that they want me to ask? The group will be mostly art historians and art conservators and the theme is, "Tempera painting between 1800 and 1950. Experiments and innovations from the Nazarene movement to abstract art."

Here is the link:


Koo Schadler 08-03-18 02:14 PM

Brava, Lora, for booking your plane ticket!

I have q question. It has to do with the current definition of the word "tempera". As the conference itself says in its description,

"In the 19th century, the defining feature of tempera paints was their water-miscibility – a characteristic that clearly separated them from oil paints. In the first half of the 20th century, this use of the term was extended by some scholars and artists to every mixture of aqueous and non-aqueous binding media."

If, in the first half the 20th c., "every mixture" of water and non-water binders were considered tempera, than what mediums were NOT considered tempera? The lack of clarity around the term "tempera" (in the early 20th c. up to today) remains confusing; for example, in museums you often see ancient Egyptian art generically labeled as "temperas" - does that mean watercolor, glue distemper, egg tempera, something else?

In short, if you could get the conference's take on the CURRENT definition of the word "tempera", I'd be most interested.

Also, I'm interested if the conference addresses what I call the "mythology" of egg tempera. My experience has been that conservators and historians know a lot of good facts; however they aren't necessary painters themselves, don't have extensive direct experience with painting in egg tempera. So there is a tendency (even among leading tempera historians) to repeat old saws such as "tempera paintings are inevitably high-key" or "inevitably high-chroma"; that one can't create strong light effects in tempera, etc.

In short, I'd be curious how they perceive tempera's capabilities.

Looking forward to hearing your report!


arbrador 12-03-18 01:33 AM

Definition of Temperas
Hi Koo and others,

I will definitely try to nail down some scholarly definition for "tempera." The miscible in water or not miscible in water sounds like it was a workable definition but as I think about it it seems that the art history world should take a lesson from medicine and more particularly botany and come up with something more precise.

Botany still has pine tree, daisy and rose for common names but each plant also has a very specific name that includes Family/ Genus/ Species/ and Variety.

What does "watercolor" mean? Egg Tempera could be considered a watercolor paint. Yet some paints are named very simply and clearly ie "oil paint," "encaustic paint," "acrylic paint," "casein paint."

So although not elegant, what we know as watercolor could be called "gum arabic paint," what we now call "distemper" could be "glue painting," and our beloved "egg tempera" could be called "yolk-of-egg paint."

I know it will never happen but until it does I think there will continue to be confusion and imprecision. Our pigments now have very specific numbers ie PB29 is ultramarine "Pigment Blue 29" so why not our types of paints?

Even the poor psychiatrists and psychologists labor over their nemesis, now called the DSM-IV (diagnostic codes) so why can't the academic art world come up with something?

Maybe I'll find out at this conference.


Koo Schadler 15-03-18 01:47 PM

I like your thinking on this Lora. The simplest would be "egg yolk paint" (tho' "yolk-of-egg paint" sounds a bit more poetic).

Your fellow egg yolk painter,


arbrador 15-03-18 09:29 PM

First day of Tempera Conference
Hi All,
It is exciting to be here in Munich at the Tempera Conference. There are about 170 attendees from 22 countries!
Almost all the attendees are art conservators or art historians. A lot of today's program was spent trying to define "tempera" with very little success. Mostly they took a deep dive through the history of experts writing about tempera and all the different attempts at definitions. The upshot was "there is no general definition possible."
The definition of "water miscible" came up but was shot down. It was said that egg yolk is already an oil so it really does not matter how much oil is added.

These criteria were mentioned for determining whether or not a work is tempera but I don't really buy it:
1. technical aspects - emulsion?
2. visual appearance
3. manufactured tempera paint?
4. chemical compounds determined by lab analysis

We were lectured to by a chemical engineer, Norbert Willenbacher, whose specialty is "flow" or rheometry. "Flow of complex fluids is complex" He threw around so many terms that we were dizzy:

shear deformation, shear stress, shear rate, shear strain, shear thinning, shear thickening, yield stress and it went on and on.
He talked about the "magic mixture of surfactants" and convinced us that whether a medium is water or oil soluble does not matter.

I was intrigued by a Czech conservator, Stepanka Kuckavas, who presented a poster showing that she is able to distinguish paintings painted with whole egg vs egg yolk with a technique called, nano-LC-M5/MS.

You can check out the program here:

Tomorrow is workshop day. I'll be taking a workshop on using tempera techniques for fresco.

Thanks for listening,


dbclemons 16-03-18 04:00 PM

It can certainly be fascinating to bring up the science of materials and stand it up to the aesthetic aspects of art. It invariably winds up with rules to follow that the creatives will want to shoot down. "Just Paint!"

Calling watercolor paint as "gum arabic paint" would also have to include gouache, and yet most watercolor competitions don't allow that in the entries. In fact, it's often the competition criteria that causes much of the confusion. At what point does an egg and oil painting become one or the other, or mixed media? I often come across writings or descriptions of mediums as "acrylic tempera" or "casein tempera" or just "tempera" leaving me confused on exactly what it is, so some clarity would help there.

The conference sounds interesting, Lora. Continue to keep us posted.

arbrador 01-04-18 02:56 AM

ET terminology and report from Tempera Conference
Hi All,

And thanks dbclemons for your insight about tempera terminology. I agree that any category of “gum arabic paint” would need to include gouache. In that case would we need to further delineate the watercolor term into transparent watercolor vs opaque watercolor? It does get complicated but no reason to abandon all hope of a rationale method of paint binder classification in my opinion.

However, there is such romance around the term “tempera” that I doubt it will ever be relegated to historic-only use. I believe we have a pigment classification system only because it was created by industry--automotive?)

On the second day of the Tempera Conference in Munich, I had an in-depth conversation with two young art conservators- one from Romania and the other from Slovenia. Both are PhDs and published in their fields. Unlike some of the presenters at the conference, they strongly agreed that a scientific, system of paint binder classification is needed. They suggested that publishing this idea in an academic journal would stir up controversy and perhaps change. They said they would be interested in doing this.

I also learned that there is a professional organization of conservators in the USA and another one in Europe and also an international museum organization. Each one publishes an academic journal so those might be good places for a concerned conservator to publish about this issue of terminology.

However, I also met a conservator from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, who told me that she thought “tempera” was still a useful umbrella term.

On the third and last day of the conference a presenter gave some “wrap up” commentary. She said that tempera could be defined by geography ie in the USA and UK the term “tempera” is generally considered to describe a paint binder containing some egg while in Germany and other places in Europe tempera generally refers to a combination of binding substances.

The group seemed fascinated by the range of “temperas” and wanted to experience them, hence the experiential workshops on Day Two. There were references made to future restoration problems caused by the many historical tempera recipes but mostly the participants seemed interested in experiencing the working properties ie how the paint flowed, how the surface looked etc.

When they asked me which recipe I used for my tempera and I told them “pure egg yolk” they seemed to feel sorry for me as if I was missing out on all the fun. I guess having artists using unreliable binding media are a source of future challenge for restoration. I did tell them that when I started out I did try lots of recipes but did not care for the results so settled on pure egg yolk.

One poster presentation at the conference titled, “Hiding in Plain Sight? Tempera-based British Paintings at the Tate, London,” said one reason why they don't notice the tempera paintings in their own collection is that the pure egg temperas often don't require any restoration if at all, and thus don’t come under their radar. They showed a copy of one Joseph Edward Southall yolk-of-egg tempera that had never needed any restoration.

There were also many, attendees who were there to learn about "tempera" as they knew very little, if anything about it. In all there were 270 attendees from 22 countries- almost all conservators, conservation scientists and art historians.

Go to this link if you’re interested in the specific lectures and posters:

Also feel free to ask me any specific questions about the conference. I’m glad I went.


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