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Gouache paintings are one of the oldest forms of art and are known for having the most desirable characteristics of the other art mediums.
4 Mins

Buyer's Guide: Gouache art

Lewis Findley
Lewis Findley

Exploring Art: Gouache Paintings

A fascinating medium, Gouache has the ability to be used in the same way as watercolours or acrylics.

This dynamic makes it a versatile medium with captivating results. However, Gouache can still be considered its own medium.

In this guide, you'll explore the history of the medium, how it's made, and famous artworks.

Kicking off this guide is an insight into its history which goes back to Ancient Egypt!

A brief history of Gouache

The use of gouache can be traced as far back as ancient Egypt. It was here where the medium was used to illuminate manuscripts. 

This effect was the result of the Gouache medium's ability to dry in a dramatic way. For example, light colours dry darker and dark colours dry lighter.

Over time, Gouache was used to create or accentuate an array of artworks such as the "The Birth and Triumph of Venus” by by François Boucher.

When it reached Europe, around the 16th century, the medium grew in popularity and its versatility was proved again as it was used to add depth to pastel artworks.

Interestingly, Gouache is considered a hybrid of acrylic and watercolours.

Gouache vs watercolour and acrylic

It's true that the gouache medium contains traits that are similar to both watercolour and acrylic but at the same time, Gouache can be considered its own medium.

Gouache vs watercolour

In comparison to watercolours, they are both water based. However, Gouache has a higher pigment ratio and this is why it's opaque and can be spread in a denser way as opposed to watercolours and get that matte finish.

Furthermore, watercolours are renowned for their unpredictability when they dry but with gouache, the results are a lot more consistent.

In addition to this, you can paint light to dark with watercolour and can with Gouache but Gouache can paint dark to light which is consistent with the acrylic medium.

Gouache vs Acrylic

The acrylic medium can dry quickly and this trait helps artists who want to add more layers and depth and this trait is shared with Gouache.

However, Gouache can be reactivated whereas the acrylic medium struggles with this practice.

A dynamic medium, you can see how it contains the perks of acrylic and watercolours but it's unique to itself.

How is it made?

How do you make Gouache paint?

The Gouache medium gets their superpowers from the way it's made.

The process is similar to the way watercolours are made. The binder is a water-based soluble.

Trivia - to give it that opaque effect, you can add chalk.

The binder, which is normally gum Arabic or dextrin, will suspend the pigments and this is what allows the paint to be used on a surface.

Famous Gouache Paintings

These artworks are able to illustrate the fascinating qualities of Gouache art.

From Whitmore to Matisse, check out some famous Gouache paintings.

At The Front Lines

Image Via - Artnet

Coby Whitemore painted this captivating piece and uses the subject of a woman in the midst of war. 

Combining both uses of Gouache, the light and dark colours have combined wonderfully to illuminate the subject and accentuate the darkness that war brings.

Seductive Femme Fatale

Image Via - Artnet

Coby Whitmore is back again with a seductive piece.

Using the subject of a woman again, they are positioned in a provocative manner and the artist has used the dense nature of Gouache to fantastic effect.

The deep hue of red invokes many emotions when viewing the artwork and it's taken to new levels with the expression pulled by the subject and the style of their hair.

Culminating into a thought-provoking piece, you can see the opaque nature of Gouache to full effect.

Freshwater Pond Life - 1970s

Ned M. Seidler - Freshwater Pond Life (1970s)

Image Via - gurneyjourney

Ned M. Seidler was behind this piece and has included an array of insects and nature to create a stunning piece of art. 

As you read earlier, the Gouache medium has the ability to obtain the depth of acrylic art and you can see some of this here. 

By combating life outside and inside the ocean, the versatility of the medium us on show in a beautiful way.

Nu Bleu II (Blue Nude) - 1952

Image Via - Redbubble

Considered a pioneer in the medium of Gouache, Henri Matisse used it to add strong emotions to this piece. 

The story behind this artwork is that Matisse used sheets of paper and cut them out to resemble this shape. He settled on the colour blue because it symbolises distance and volume.

The desired effect was achieved as you couldn't imagine this artwork as any other colour. The use of blue which boasts the strong pigment ratio of Gouache has added a dramatic effect on the artwork.

Final Words

The Gouache medium is fascinating. 

Despite sharing traits of watercolour and acrylic, this medium is completely unique and has created extraordinary artworks.

What was your favourite painting? Head over to the comments and let us know!