I was given a small packet and told it was Rabbit Skin glue. First, I was upset for the rabbit – but I have since seen it sold in the art stores also – so I would like to know its function with regard to Asian paintings. Thank you.
Animal glue has a history of over 6,000 years, made from animal skin, bones etc.
In fact ancient chinese ink was made from pine soot and animal glue, for example buffalo horn.
Hide glue from animal skin is fairly neutral PH whereas bone glue is more acidic.
The easy water solubility in water together with the neutral PH makes hide glue a preferred choice for working with sensitive materials and delicate woodwork such as veneer and marquetry and delicate musical instruments such as violins: the glue needs to be non damaging and easily removable to be able to open and repair the violin.
In artistic use, rabbit-skin glue can be used as a binder or thickener for paint and is the traditional binding ingredient in gesso. You can also use it when mixing your own colours.
It can also be used with alum as an ingredient for sizing paper for gongbi style painting.
Thank you, most of that I could find out in general research, but I was particularly interested in how it is used in Asian painting other than mixing with paint – and someone else (not from Inkston) told me it is used to adhere gold leaf to paintings. I have since found that reference in a Japanese painting book.