Composition with Whitened Forms, 1940 by Wassily Kandinsky

Composition with Whitened Forms, 1940 by Wassily Kandinsky
Courtesy of www.Wassily-Kandinsky.org

Formerly known as bodycolour, gouache has been around for at least three hundred years in its present form, although its ancestry is in egg tempera, as a water-based paint medium. It differs from the more translucent watercolour with the addition of whitening to render it opaque. This whitening may be a Chinese white (zinc oxide) paint or chalk Gouache or bodycolour was used extensively by J. M, W, Turner (1775-1851) to enhance his watercolours in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

It is possible with this late work by Kandinsky that the paint was available commercially ready-mixed in a tube, using gum arabic as the binding agent. At the time gouache was being used more and more by designers as a fastdrying, opaque medium for promotional artworks. It was also a favoured medium for a number of fine artists in the twentieth century apart from Kandinsky, for instance, Henri Matisse. As you can see from this painting, gouache works very well as a medium against a dark or black ground. The paint already has a depth to its character, which is enhanced on this type of ground.