Averil Burleigh was a long-standing member of the Society of Painters in Tempera. Between 1930 and 1935 she had 17 exhibits at the RA and all are listed as tempera. Burleigh specialised in tempera painting and her work is characterised by a bright palette underpinned with a bold sense of graphic design. Her compositions are usually dominated by female figures In the summer of 1933, Burleigh exhibited three painting at the Royal Academy, hung in galleries specifically set aside for displaying watercolours and temperas. The 1933 exhibition was a family affair with both her husband Charles and daughter Veronica exhibiting works.
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 in numerable 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.