Source: Shanghai Daily | March 5, 2017, Sunday | PRINT EDITION
AT University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, visitors can see an imitation of Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” as well as other works created using the same fresco-painting techniques used by the Italian Renaissance master.
With the university offering training in Tempera painting, 13 third-year students majoring in public art spent three months learning to recreate famous classical works, including those from Botticelli. Now they are exhibiting their works at the British Cultural Center at the university.
Tempera is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder medium, usually a glutinous material such as egg yolk. It dates back to ancient Greece and reached its peak time in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. It was usually used in church frescoes and religious paintings.
“As a classical fresco technique, Tempera is known for its smoothness, softness and lasting stability,” said Zhang Yue, the teacher in charge of the class. “In the process of learning Tempera, we were able to peak into the light of classical masters’ souls.”
Zhang said Tempera is taught only in theory at many art schools nowadays, but she believes it is still useful.
“It can be used in frescoes or paintings in public spaces, such as halls in subway stations,” she said. “And it is also necessary for fresco restoration since you have to know how the paintings were painted to repair them.”
Zhang told Shanghai Daily that over 100 students have studied Tempera painting with her over the past six years. One of her former students is also now studying fresco restoration in Italy as part of a master’s degree.
As a classical technique, it is not easy for young artists to master Tempera painting.
“It’s really complicated, which is also a reason why Tempera was later replaced by oil painting,” Zhang explained. “Starting from the sketch pad, we have to brush powders and glues a dozen times and polish them meticulously...
“You really have to be patient and calm. Any impatience will lead to failure,” she added.
Zhu Lei, a student who copied “The Dead Christ” by Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna, said he became frustrated at first during the meticulous process.
“I persisted though, as I was stimulated by seeing some of my classmates doing well,” he said. “It really gave us a great sense of achievement to see our final works to be exhibited here.”