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(noun) - Distemper is an ancient type of paint made of water, chalk and pigment, bound with either an animal glue or the adhesive qualities of casein (a resin that comes from solidified milk). This combination makes for a thin paint that is not durable, but can be (1) made inexpensively and (2) tinted nearly any color.

Due to its delicate nature, distemper has been used since Antiquity for wall painting and other types of house decoration either on interior surfaces or outside in regions that seldom, if ever, see rain. Due to the minimal cash outlay required to make it, distemper was also used for posters and scenic backdrops on the stage. It has almost never been used for "Fine Art" paintings.

Though it saw continual use from ancient Egyptian times to the end of the 19th century, the advent of oil- and Latex-based house paints have rendered distemper obsolete - except in instances of historic, period-authentic structures, where distempered surfaces continue to be maintained.

Also Known As:

peinture à la colle


"Love, when it is ours, is the other name for self-abnegation and sacrifice. When it belongs to people across the airshaft it means arrogance and self-conceit. The bride crossed her oxfords and looked thoughtfully at the distemper Cupids on the ceiling." - O. Henry, The Voice of the City: Little Speck In Garnered Fruit

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