‘Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery’, signed (twice) tempera on board, circa 1941

SKU: 10894


Tempera on board


Height – 60cm x Width – 49.5cm


.L.M. Avery Esq 1941

The term tempera refers to any painting medium consisting of coloured pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder. Egg tempera, the most common form, consists of pigments bound by egg yolk. On account of its binder, tempera tends to have a matt surface, and, unlike oil, is usually not varnished when finished. Typically painted on a panel prepared with gesso (rather than a canvas), tempera paintings often have sharper defined contours and smoother surfaces. Unlike oil, tempera does not afford areas of impasto (textured paint). Tempera dries fast and therefore colours cannot be blended. Modelling is achieved by laying down innumerable individual brushstrokes of graduated colour adjacent to each other. Many artists working in tempera felt attracted to the labour intensive idea of preparing their own colours, grinding raw pigments with a mortar and pestle.

Although Tempera had been out of favour since the end of the Renaissance, when it was gradually replaced by oil paint, British artists such as William Blake (1757-1827), and the Pre-Raphaelites were passionate advocates of the medium. In 1901 Christiana Herringham (1852-1929) together with Joseph Southall (1861-1944) and Marianne Stokes (1855-1927), formed the Society of Painters in Tempera centred around artists of the Birmingham School: Maxwell Armfield (1881-1972), Arthur Gaskin (1862-1928), Charles March Gere (1869-1957), Margaret Gere (1878-1965), and Frederick Cayley Robinson (1862-1927). In the 20th century, Britain tempera was also popular amongst Rome Scholars and its faculty members, including Charles Sims (1872-1928), Winifred Knights (1899-1947), Thomas Monnington (1902-1976), Reginald Brill (1902-1974), and muralists such as Mary Adshead (1904-1995) and Barbara Jones (1912-1978).

Tempera can survive the passage of time better than oil paintings – this is especially the case with early Italian egg tempera, which is usually characterised by an almost enamelled appearance. In the 20th century however, egg tempera was often only lightly bound (resulting in a chalky quality), closer in character to watercolour.

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Charles Robinson Sykes
Charles Robinson
1875 - 1950

Illustrator, sculptor and commercial artist. He was born Charles Robinson Sykes in Redcar but raised in Newcastle upon Tyne the son of amateur artist and house decorator Samuel Sykes (b.1850). At 25 Charles was according to the 1901 census still working as an assistant to his father in Newcastle although he had been awarded a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London. He turned to commercial art after his studies and abandoned his middle name of Robinson. For his commercial art he adopted the names Rilette and Jacques d’Or. His commissions included work at the Cistercian Abbey at the home of Lord Montague of Beaulieu, 1903. Another followed and perhaps his best known commission was the Flying Lady mascot for Rolls Royce, 1911. Within a decade he had also designed both gold and silver cups for Royal Ascot. He went on to adopt the name of ‘Rilette’ signing many of his travel posters and cartoons accordingly.

His cartoons appeared in the Sunday Dispatch, Tatler, Woman, Printers Pie and magazines of his time. In addition he drew caricatures, two of which featured the pianist Vladimir Cernikoff (1882-1940) and were published in Drawing & Design in July 1923. Sykes exhibited At the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, International Society of Sculptors, Painters & Gravers, Laing Art Gallery, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Royal Academy and Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1938. The Fine Art Society held a memorial exhibition the year after his death and a second followed in 1963 which was organised by his sculptor daughter Josephine Sykes. Examples of his work are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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