There are many famous painters that have used gouache paint in their artwork, for finished pieces or studies. Gouache paint is a versatile medium, and it can be used on many different surfaces. This is a selection of famous gouache painters, certainly very personal!
William Turner, English, 1775–1851
Turner was a great watercolorist, and used gouache as well. He could mix both mediums, add white gouache for highlights, or gouache alone. He produced a vast number of studies, sketchbooks using gouache and/or watercolor.
Paris from the Barrière de Passy c.1833
Gouache and watercolour on paper
143 x 194 mm (that’s huge!)
Henri de TOULOUSE-LAUTREC, French, 1864-1901
Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, a famous French painter, started using pastels in his early childhood. He was painting on the streets of Paris with watercolors and oils, including gouache paint. In 1892 he moved to Montmartre, where he met many artists that shared their skills and knowledge with him. He was painting with various mediums: chalk, soft pastel, ink, oil, watercolor, and gouache. When painting with gouache he was using cardboard as it’s steady and hold the paint well. He was really a mixed media artist, as we would say today, and gouache painting was one of the numerous skills he had.
Woman with an Umbrella, 1889 (w/c, gouache & tempera on cardboard)
Want to know more about gouache?
Sign up now to get my exclusive gouache guide with 60 tips!
Vasily Kandinsky, Russian, 1866-1944
The artist worked in a wide range of materials, including oil, watercolor, gouache, tempera, and possibly mixtures of these media. Kandinsky’s choice of vivid colors and pigments is legendary.
Untitled, gouache, 1916
John Singer Sargent, American, 1866-1925
He used watercolor with gouache and wax resist to create highlights in his paintings. Unlike watercolorists of his time, he had no problem adding gouache to watercolor. He was softening the edges of gouache with a light wash of watercolor.
Henri Matisse, French, 1869-1954
There were two main periods of Matisse’s work: Fauvism and his later works. During the last decade of his life, Henri Matisse used white paper and gouache to create a world of plants, animals, figures, and shapes. He created these works by cutting with scissors instead of painting. You can find an extensive article on Matisse’s cut-outs here.
Stepan Kolesnikov, Russian, 1879-1955
Kolesnikov was born and raised in Russia, moved all over Europe, and settled in what is now Serbia. His main subject was farm workers, their work on the fields, village life and church celebrations. He painted a lot of winter landscapes; these often featured trees, figures and buildings. He used oil and gouache, which allowed him to create soft areas as well as sharp ones.
Joan Miro, Spanish, 1893-1983
Among hundreds of artwork, Miro produced a series of 23 paintings in 1904-41. The series is called ‘Constellations’ and is made with oil wash and gouache. Miro says: After my work [oil painting] I dipped my brushes in petrol and wiped them on the white sheets of paper from the album, with no preconceived ideas. The blotchy surface put me in a good mood and provoked the birth of forms, human figures, animals, stars, the sky, and the moon and the sun. I drew all this in charcoal with great vigor. Once I had managed to obtain a plastic equilibrium and order among all these elements, I began to paint in gouache, with minute detail of a craftsman and a primitive; this demanded a great deal of time.”
‘Chiffres et constellations amoureux d’une femme’
To them, gouache was a way to express their art, a medium like others. It’s impossible to name all famous gouache painters across history. Some more: Camille Pissaro, Egon Schiele, François Boucher, Adolph Menzel, Marc Chagall, Whistler…
Special thanks to the members of the Facebook group ‘Gouache Painters‘ where I asked for some input.
Do you want to learn more about painting, join a community of like-minded artists and have fun?
Join my Membership 'Art With Cecile' with monthly painting tutorials and live sessions.