History of Gouache Paintings
Gouache paintings date back to the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians who created a medium similar to the modern version by binding pigment with honey or various plant gums. From the early middle ages, it was used to create sacred illuminated manuscripts, and during the high and late middle ages gouache became a popular medium for creating miniature portraits. The medium’s modern name originates from the Italian term “guazzo,” which was originally used to describe an application of oil paint over a tempera base. Though gouache as a medium had been in use since ancient times, the term wasn’t applied to the water-based medium until the 18th century. Historically, gouache has not been as heavily used as tempera, oil, and watercolor, many artists use gouache in conjunction with other paint mediums when they require its characteristic effects such as less transparent color washes or flat color fields.
Popular Gouache Paintings Techniques
Gouache is an extremely fast drying medium with a matte finish. For this reason, it’s often used by those who’d like to work quickly—for example, plein air painters attempting to capture a landscape before any dramatic changes in sunlight affect the scene. As gouache is essentially watercolor with the addition of chalk for opacity, many watercolor painters will use gouache in conjunction with watercolors for areas within the work where they desire less transparency. Undiluted gouache can be applied in thin, smooth layers using sable brushes, or thick impasto using bristle brushes and/or palette knife. Due to its versatility, as well as its quick-drying properties, some artists may create gouache paintings as preliminary studies in preparation for works to be later done in oils or acrylics. Though it has broad applications within the fine arts, gouache is primarily known as a “poster art” medium, and is widely used by commercial art designers, comic artists, and illustrators.
Famous Gouache Paintings
Some well-known works created using gouache include Correggio’s Annunciation (1522-25), Adoration (1760-70) by Francois Boucher, Boys in a Dory (1873) by Winslow Homer, and Lady in Gray (1183) by James McNeill Whistler. Modern painters who’ve worked in gouache include Edward Hopper and Henri Matisse who used it to color the paper cutouts (i.e. gouaches découpées) for his famous Blue Nude series (1952). Other gouache artists include Modernist pioneer Paul Klee, painter Georges Rouault, and French ‘naif’ artist Jean Dubuffet. Ben Shahn created a series of gouache paintings on panel in the ‘30’s and ‘40s depicting important social issues of the time, and contemporary artist David Hockney has created several watercolor and gouache works.