How to Buy an Antique Gouache Painting

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How to Buy an Antique Gouache Painting

When coming to make an art purchase, the seemingly endless choice of styles and subject matter can be off-putting, especially for new buyers. This guide will look at how to buy art paintings that are created with gouache, a type of paint which is non-transparent, and the different options you have when coming to acquire one.

Shopping online and more specifically on eBay helps with this and provides the chance to narrow down the different types of antique gouache painting in order to make a more refined purchase.

What is Gouache?

  • Gouache paint is similar to watercolour paint in the fact it contains a binding agent, namely gum Arabic, and only differs in the fact that it is altered with an inert pigment (usually chalk) to make it appear opaque. Because of this, no light can pass through where the gouache paint is applied and this gives a darker and heavier manifestation for certain landscapes.
  • It can be applied more directly without as much thought as watercolours or acrylic paints due to its denser appearance, making it favourable with certain artists for specific areas of a painting. However, it can be harder to match some gouache colours next to each other as lighter tones tend to dry a darker shade and darker tones tend to dry lighter.
  • Gouache paint, pronounced ‘gwash’, is often referred to as designer’s gouache due to its fantastic finishing qualities. Commonly used on a heavy paper surface if extended layers of paint are needed. It is often best to use less layers however as some gouache mixtures can be dense and cause the under-layers to crack when dried.

Antique Paintings

  • Antique paintings of any style can be classified in numerous ways, where different cut-off years are used to differentiate between them and vintage or contemporary workings. The general consensus and most commonly used definition of antique paintings are those created before 1900 – this is the way in which eBay classifies them also. When looking for antique gouache workings you are considering paintings that were made before this date.
  • If coming to buy online or from an auction site such as eBay, then the potential is there for some sellers to list their paintings in a misleading manner to push their asking price up, i.e. claiming they are much older than they actually are. For those worried about overpaying for an antique gouache painting then ask as many questions to the seller as possible and maybe even review the painting first-hand if possible.
  • If the chance presents itself to view the item then check the back of the painting canvas; older paintings should have a darker and more worn out façade. Much lighter or even white canvasses will most likely mean that the painting is not over 100 years old as being advertised.

Types of Gouache Painting

Artists using gouache techniques in their workings can paint a variety of subject matters in their work. It can be selected on eBay to bring up paintings that follow a certain subject theme. They include:

People/Portraits – The depiction of real life humans is one of the main topics of an artists’ brush. Antique portraits will obviously have a historical theme to them and portray images of people from different pre-1900 era’s, such as the Georgians or Victorians.

Botanical – Flowers or various foliage are the subject matter of botanical paintings. Some of the portrayals of pre 20th century flowers provide an interesting insight into how people viewed flowers during these periods.

Landscapes – Painting landscapes has been one of the most popular themes for artists, especially those in the vintage era. Gouache paint can provide great reflective qualities for particular skylines or building windows.

Animals – Antique gouache paintings also stretch to painting wildlife and animals. They tend to depict the animal as closely as possible by using a mixture of watercolour and gouache paint.

Styles of Gouache Art

Again, different art movements have used gouache paint within their workings. The table below will look at the definitions of some of the various gouache styles of art that are available to purchase.


Art Style





Because of the antique nature and restricted use of gouache paint, many workings are of a realistic style. This is where the artist tries to represent their subject as closely and convincingly as possible, avoiding unnatural movements if possible.




Impressionism is an art form that concentrates on using small and soft brushstrokes to make up a picture, usually of an ordinary subject matter. It requires a lot of skill by the artist, especially when using opaque gouache paint.



More unconventional and less commonly associated with gouache paint are abstract workings that use the less transparent gouache paint to make bolder shapes and valiant colours appear on the canvas.



Art that focuses in on the subject in a much smaller size is known as miniature art. It can be used to home in on a particular subject matter to paint it in more detail. There are no restrictions for artists when it comes to painting smaller scaled works.

Buying Considerations for Art Paintings

  • If buying the vintage painting to form a collection or in the hope it will appreciate in value of time, then make sure to consider the item carefully as possible before parting with money. Try and stay objective about the quality and potential worth of something; just because it appeals to you, doesn’t mean it will sell for copious amounts at an auction.
  • Checking the provenance of a painting is always useful aswell as any possible details about the artist. This should be a document that details the past ownership information about the painting and its journey from creation to the present day. Having the appropriate documents can help greatly when coming to sell on a painting also, especially one from before the 1900’s.
  • If concerned that a particular painting may be a fake because it is not signed, remember that many painters before the 19th century didn’t tend to sign their work anyway. Doing individual research on the artist can assist with this greatly.
  • For those buying a gouache painting for the house, then consider first where abouts on a wall it will be positioned. The sizing dimensions are imperative to get right; there is no point investing in an antique painting if it doesn’t fit in the desired space or looks too small against other wall decorations
  • Similarly, consider the colour scheme of the wall and the room in its entirety, from the colour of the carpet to the colour of the curtains. Think if a particular shade of a gouache picture will coincide with the room overall.

Using eBay to Buy an Antique Gouache Painting

Searching on eBay is easy if the particular type of painting is known, such as a “gouache impressionist painting” by entering this into the search bar.

  • It is also possible to search more generally by selecting the ‘Paintings’ category, and then the ‘Antique (Pre 1900).’ Now either enter in “gouache” into the search bar or use the preference menu on the left-hand side to narrow down the listings even further.
  • This menu can also be used to navigate between the style of painting and also the subject matter. It is also possible to select between items listed for Auction and those available immediately for the asking price via the Buy It Now facility.
  • In addition, eBay gives the chance to bring up listings that are from the UK only and also those that are a certain mileage from your location. This can help tremendously if interested in a more expensive antique gouache painting as it provides the chance to view the item first-hand before parting with money. The opportunity to take the painting home there and then if choosing to conclude the purchase is also an option, rather than worry about it potentially being damaged in transit by a third source.
  • Remember to stay as safe as possible when coming to make a final purchase on eBay, especially when dealing with potentially fake antique art paintings. To combat this, read the description listed by the seller as closely as possible and check for any vague or missing details. Look for details of the provenance and what condition the painting is in. A lot of pictures, preferably from close-up angles, are also the sign of an efficient and trustworthy seller.
  • To be even surer of the seller’s credibility, look at their profile and review the amount of items they have previously sold on eBay along with their feedback score. Examine any positive or negative comments left by other eBayers that can also signify their reliability. Using PayPal is the most trusted and common way of paying for an item on eBay so is possible avoid using seller’s who don’t accept this as a payment method.


Gouache paint can provide a fantastic finish for vintage paints and has been used for centuries by artists in a range of styles. Due to the extensive amount of art paintings on the market it is advisable to shop on eBay as many types can be reviewed next to each other.

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