Today, it is often thought that the hieratic conventions of
the early painters were the fruit Of long and patient reflection,
whereas actually they resulted, primarily at least, from the limitations
of a technique that allowed the painter- only the most summary realizations.
It is a mistake to look for pictorial synthesis or unification in this type
of painting. The difficulties of execution were such that any organization of
the parts in relation to the whole--in the way that later became possible with the development of oil painting--was not realizable.
After the time of Cimabue (1240-I331), considerable progress in technical methods is apparent and the much greater suppleness in the later tempera paintings was probably due to use of an emulsion of wax in water.
But none of the improvements that were made before Van Eyck's method of oil painting gave the artist the real freedom he needed.
Notwithstanding the beauty of the work of the really great masters of tempera painting, we are bound to admit that the medium as a whole, when compared side by side with that of the masters who followed Van Eyck, proves that the technical means at the disposal of the artist is of the utmost importance. It is interesting to note that similar processes and methods lend to similar results. In all techniques of painting which do not permit direct modelling, analogous conventions and stylizations are to be found.