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Bronwyn Ann Ormsby, The Materials and Techniques of William Blake's Tempera Paintings. William Blake, 1757-1827, 2 volumes, Northumbria, Northumbria University at Newcastle, 2003.
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Forty-five tempera paintings by William Blake were examined and the majority sampled, in order to identify Blake's tempera painting materials and his techniques, as well as to assess their subsequent deterioration. Scientific analysis focussed on the Identification of Blake's tempera paint media using an optimised Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry method for gum based paints and a Reverse-Phase High Performance Liquid Chromatography method for proteinaceous paints. Contrary to historical accounts, Blake's paint media was identified as consistently containing a mixture of gums Arabic or karaya and tragacanth, and occasionally cherry gum, with the addition of honey or candy sugar, as well as animal glue. Technical examination established that Blake applied animal glue as a sealing layer onto the chalk priming, between applications of paint and as a final coating, in addition to using it as a paint binder. Pigment Identification resulted in the expansion of Blake's palette to over twenty pigments. Historical context was established by compiling information on Blake's practices and philosophy, including accounts by Blake's followers and biographers, past conservation records and recently published literature, as well as an investigation into the Importation and historical uses of plant gums In painting. Historical watercolour cakes were also analysed for their gum and pigment content, including samples used by Blake's contemporary, J. M. W. Turner. The watercolour cakes predominantly contained gum Arabic, however, some also included trace amounts of cherry gum or gum tragacanth, although not in the proportions seen In Blake's tempera paints. This suggested that Blake was making his own paints, which supports the historical accounts. A pilot study was also carried out into the materials and techniques of tempera paintings by Blake's followers, George Richmond and Samuel Palmer. As both artists were found to be using very similar materials to Blake, and in particular, their use of gum mixtures and animal glue, Blake's direct Influence on these two artists seems clear.