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Art Terms in Action: Emulsion

Learn why Willem de Kooning added raw egg to his paint. To experiment on your own, take our online studio course Materials and Techniques of Postwar Abstract Painting Created by The Museum of Modern Art.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] An emulsion is a uniform mixture of oily substances and watery substances which usually don't mix. To take the most common example of salad dressing, you'll know that olive oil and vinegar don't mix, unless you add the egg to it. Then you can froth it up and make a uniform mixture of the two. Well in paint, emulsions work the same way. In fact, one of the same emulsifiers is used, and that is egg yolk. de Kooning, among others, would add egg to his oil paint, which is typically compatible with solvent, like turpentine, but after adding egg yolk, it was compatible with water as well. By adding water, he could then froth up the paint to get a very interesting texture, as well as a matte quality of that paint.