Egg Tempera Chemistry


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Begin with viewing paintings by modern artist Fred Wessel and using the See, Think, Wonder strategy to discuss the paintings.

Explore the idea that Wessel’s work is based in using Egg Tempera Paint as a medium. This dates back to the Renaissance. Explore the history of egg tempera using this reference. So ask students, why would artists use this method today when we have “regular” tempera paint available? Next, ask what happens to the egg tempera over time chemically? Finally, ask students what happens to an egg tempera painting over time?

Lesson Process:

Step 1:  Experiment 1: Create different variations of egg tempera to determine which works best. Use these methods.

Step 2: Experiment 2: Compare each egg tempera variation with modern-day tempera paint. Paint a section with each tempera variation (stand linseed oil, refined linseed oil, egg yolk, egg white, linseed oil, modern tempera paint, and modern tempera paint mixed with each egg tempera variation and list the observations of each.

Step 3:  Project: Create your own custom egg tempera color using your observations and knowledge of tempera based on your experiments. Highlight the chemical properties of the paint you created, as well as why artists would choose to use it in their work. Create an abstract painting that showcases these properties.

Time Required:
30-45 minutes

Materials List:

  • Internet, Computer, Projector
  • Eggs, refined and standard linseed oil, paper plates, brushes, pigments, distilled water, pallets, wooden boards, gesso



  • Student accurately explains the change of conditions that produces higher pigmentation in each tempera variation.
  • Student’s artwork highlights the characteristics of the color they created using their chosen tempera technique.