Old Masters


The Mischtechnik is often associated with Fantastic Realism. Ernst Fuchs is usually credited with bringing greater awareness to the technique, although other Vienna Fatastic Realists (Brauer, Hutter?) also did educated many in the technique. Many of their students have gone on to make their own variations and teach others.

The name “Misch” in German means mixed and refers to using two different types of media; egg tempera and oil paints. Strictly speaking it could refer to the use other media, but in the context of Fantastic and Visionary art, this is usually what it means. It is a traditional technique that medieval and Renaissance artists used to create detailed paintings with rich depths of colour. This depth of colour is achieved by producing what is known as optical greys.

“Optical grey,” means what appears to be a grey, made by a thin, semitransparent/semiopaque layer of white or other light-value paint over black or other (relatively) darker-value passage. “Optical” refers to what is seen by the eye. In this case what the eyes perceives is grey, though the top layer of paint is white,

This shows the famous ‘optical greys’ spoken of by the Masters of the Renaissance. Three primary colours have been used in turn – red, yellow, and blue separated by layers of ‘light’ in the form of white egg tempera. This creates a mysterious chemical effect in which one can see all kinds of colour combinations shimmering through the layers, like the colours of an opal.

The idea is that you paint the highlights and detail with egg tempera and use oil paint in a series of glazes (red, yellow and blue), before adding local colour on top to finish.

Brigid Marlin gives an excellent step by step overview of the technique in her book “Visions of Venice?” and on her website.

An Overview of Egg Tempera

Egg Tempera Paint

Egg Tempera Paint

Egg tempera is a painting process that uses egg yolk to bind pigments. The artist must manufacture the paints him or herself by the simple process of mixing finely ground pigment, water and dilute egg yolk.

The paint is then applied in a method where the optical laws of egg tempera are obeyed thus the unique surface of egg tempera will be achieved. In addition to making the paint the artist has also to prepare the ground on which to paint. This usually comprises of a rigid support covered with a suitable ground usually a water based glue gesso.


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Featured Artist Peter Gric