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Gouache Paintings

Gouache is a type of watercolor, formulated to be opaque rather than transparent. Because watercolor is transparent, the white of the support – that is, the surface on which the paint is applied – shows through the watercolor and becomes part of the picture.

To make gouache, size and white are added. As a result, gouache is opaque rather than transparent. Where watercolor is perceived as a high-precision paint, artists are aware that though gouache is “paint,” works made with gouache are most rigorously termed “drawings.”

In the Italian Renaissance, artists used gouache in drawings. Albrecht Durer made a series of watercolor landscapes and utilized gouache for highlights. Raphael drew cartoons – preparatory drawings for tapestries – in gouache. Gouache also appears in combination with ink and pencil, again as a highlight, in Renaissance drawings.

In the 19th century, artists rediscovered gouache and used it again in combination with other media, primarily watercolor. George Innes, the American landscape painter made watercolor landscape pictures with gouache. Similar to the Renaissance masters, artists today usually mix gouache with other media

Quick Facts

  • On May 11, 2015, Christie’s New York sold Egon Schiele, "Weiblicher Torso in Unterwäsche und schwarzen Strümpfen," 1917, for $1 million
  • On June 25, 2015, Sotheby’s London sold Sonia Delaunay, "Untitled," 1947, for £106,250. Delaunay created "Untitled" with gouache, colored crayon and pencil on paper
  • Jonas Wood (born 1977) is among the contemporary artists breathing new life into painting. On May 13, 2015, a work in gouache by Jonas, "Grandfather Clock," 2007, sold for $162,500 at Sotheby’s New York

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