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The Most Influential People in the Watercolor, Gouache, Ink And Acrylic Industry

The Most Influential People in the Watercolor, Gouache, Ink And Acrylic Industry

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Today, we take the watercolour, gouache, ink and acrylic industries for granted. However, there were times in human history when these painting methods didn’t exist. What's more, some, such as acrylic, are relatively recent inventions. 

In this post, we explore the history of each of these paints and the artists who showcased how to make the best possible use of them. 


The History Of Watercolor Paint

People first began using watercolour painting around 4,000 BC in ancient China, usually for building decorations. Soon after, painters dedicated their craft to religious pursuits, depicting spiritual images on murals. By the 4th century, the painting of images on canvas had become a popular pastime, with pictures often depicting vast landscapes with almost imperceptible human subjects. 

The watercolour painting remained stagnant throughout most of the middle ages but took off again during the European Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries. Most artists applied their trade to fresco walls, but some also began using paper mediums; thanks to improved production methods, Albrecht Dürer, who was prolific during the early 1500s, developed new techniques for working with watercolours, creating new luminous and transparent effects not seen before. Hans Bol, who founded a watercolour school watercolour, was followed, mainly teaching sketches of plants and herbs. 

However, it was not until the English watercolour movement in the 18th century that the use of watercolours really got going. English cartographer turned painter Paul Sandby, one of the founders of the Royal Academy, started to use watercolour paints for maps. Technical innovators, such as J.M.W. Turner, followed him, experimenting with synthetic pigments and materials to create new colours. At the same time, Vincent Van Gogh began using different brushwork to create the masterpieces we know and love today. 

Kings Framing and Art Gallery stocks a range of watercolours, brushes and accessories to let you emulate the works of the greats. 


The History Of Gouache 

The term “gouache” first appeared in France in the eighteenth century. It described a paint made of water-soluble gum, a little bit like watercolour but mixed with a white pigment to make it more opaque. Interestingly, gouache was probably invented in the 16th century to help artists achieve a matte finish. It contained more binding than regular watercolour, forming a thicker layer on the paper surface, preventing any of the features of the paper from showing through. 

During the Renaissance, impressionist painters popularized the use of gouache for Plein air painting. Artists wanted to get out of the studio and among their subjects to characterize natural light better. Thanks to its thickness and quick-drying qualities, gouache was the ideal paint for this. 

Famous gouache painters include William Trost Richards, a 19th-century American landscape painter who regularly produced small works on tone paper, Thomas Moran, an 18th-century painter who depicted images of the American west, and Eugene Galien-Laloue who painted French urban scenes throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

However, the artist that made the most significant contribution to the painting method was arguably Henri Matisse. He produced a number of abstract works in gouache, including the world-famous The Snail, produced in 1953.

King’s stocks a range of gouache for a variety of applications. Colours include magenta, sepia, ultramarine, and Bengal rose.


The History Of Ink And Wash

Scholars attribute the invention of ink and wash painting to Tang Dynasty artist Wang Wei, sometime around the 7th century. Further development of the technique took place in Japan around the middle of the 14th century, with the peak of interest in the method occurring soon after. Noted practitioners in China included Xu Beihong, Mi Youren, and Qi Bashi, while in Japan, they included Oguri Sokei, Shingei, Shubun, and Jesetsu. 

Just as in calligraphy, ink and wash painting wasn’t so much about depicting subjects as it was about making spiritual and emotional statements. Early practitioners, particularly those from the Japanese Zen Buddhist school, used brushstrokes to make statements about the world and the human condition. 

In the West, the technique did not find widespread use. Most artists used ink and wash for maps or illustrations in books. However, some famous post-Renaissance painters used ink and wash to make extremely fine works of art, including John Constable, Rembrandt, and Nicolas Poussin. 

The History Of Acrylics

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 Acrylic paints are the most recent of the bunch. Though they are popular on the shelves of art stores today, that wasn’t the case a century ago.

Innovators such as Sam Golden and Leonard Bocour began selling paint products comprising a suspension of polymer microparticles, now called latex, in the 1940s. The idea was to create a new class of paints that would be water-resistant when dry but would still resemble watercolours, gouache or oil paints when applied to canvas. 

Acrylics, however, proved to be far more versatile than many had initially anticipated. The addition of plasticated elements made it so that artists could play with the texture, flexibility, hardness and appearance of the paint surface in ways that simply weren’t possible with watercolours or even oil-based paints. What’s more, acrylics had the advantage of being suitable for practically all artistic mediums, including wood, canvas, and paper. 

Even though acrylic paint has only been around for a relatively short time, many famous 20th-century artists took a shine to it. For instance, Andy Warhol used acrylics to explore themes of VIP culture, advertising, and marketing during the 1960s, a time in which these concepts were flourishing. Famous examples of his work include Chelsea Girls (1966), Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962) and Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966-67).

British artist David Hockney made contributions, too. Working at the same time as Warhol after having moved to California in the 1960s, he was blown away by its laid-back culture compared to back home in England. His experiences prompted him to paint A Bigger Splash, depicting a modernist mansion, pool and a splash, presumably from someone jumping in off the diving board. 

Today, you can find acrylic paints and accessories at King’s Framing and Art Gallery and get 10 percent off your first order.

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