Eternal Beauty: Egg Tempera Paintings by Fred Wessel

June 25, 2016 - October 2, 2016

The technique of egg tempera painting has been practiced since ancient times. The exacting process of mixing pigment with egg yolk and water, then applying thin layers of paint to a carved wooden panel creates images of great detail and luminescence. Fred Wessel is among the artists today working in egg tempera and he has emerged as a true master of the medium. Wessel will serve as a visiting artist and offer an egg tempera workshop in the Kirk Newman Art School from July 17-21, 2016.

The exhibition has been organized by the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. We acknowledge the cooperation of the Arden Gallery, Boston, in facilitating loans for the exhibition.

Artist’s Statement (excerpted from

A two week trip that I took to Italy in 1984 had a profound and prolonged influence on my work. I went to Italy to view the art of the Renaissance, for it is my belief that all visual artists, especially realists, should experience and study this work firsthand. I could not have predicted the dramatic impact, both direct and indirect, that this journey of discovery would have on my ensuing work. I believe that in our search for novelty in post-modernist art making, we often lose touch with certain basics: beauty, grace, harmony and visual poetry are nowadays rarely considered important criteria in evaluating contemporary works of art.

Since the Bauhaus, the term “precious” has had a negative connotation in art schools. It was a term used derisively in the 1960’s to describe work that did not adhere to the fashionably pared down kernels of conceptualism or minimalism. But after seeing the beauty, sensitivity, harmony, and preciousness of Italian Renaissance painting, I realize that, as artists, we may have abandoned too much. The ever-changing inner light that radiates from gold leaf used judiciously on the surface of a painting, and the use of pockets of rich, intense colors that illuminate the picture’s surface impressed me deeply. It was preciousness elevated to grand heights: semi-precious gems such as lapis lazuli, malachite, azurite, etc., were ground up, mixed with egg yolk and applied as paint pigments, producing dazzling, breathtaking colors. The surface of these colors forms a texture that sparkles and reflects light much like gold does, but in ways that are much more subtle than gold.

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Eternal Beauty