Mezzotint

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Saint Agnes, mezzotint by John Smith after Godfrey Kneller, usually thought to be a portrait of his daughter, Catherine Voss, by his mistress. Saint Agnes. Mezzotint by J. Smith, 1716, after Sir G. Knell Wellcome V0031505.jpg
Saint Agnes, mezzotint by John Smith after Godfrey Kneller, usually thought to be a portrait of his daughter, Catherine Voss, by his mistress.

Mezzotint is a printmaking process of the intaglio family, technically a drypoint method. [2] It was the first tonal method to be used, enabling half-tones to be produced without using line- or dot-based techniques like hatching, cross-hatching or stipple. Mezzotint achieves tonality by roughening a metal plate with thousands of little dots made by a metal tool with small teeth, called a "rocker". In printing, the tiny pits in the plate hold the ink when the face of the plate is wiped clean. A high level of quality and richness in the print can be achieved.

Printmaking process through which an artistic print is created

Printmaking is the process of creating artworks by printing, normally on paper. Printmaking normally covers only the process of creating prints that have an element of originality, rather than just being a photographic reproduction of a painting. Except in the case of monotyping, the process is capable of producing multiples of the same piece, which is called a print. Each print produced is not considered a "copy" but rather is considered an "original". This is because typically each print varies to an extent due to variables intrinsic to the printmaking process, and also because the imagery of a print is typically not simply a reproduction of another work but rather is often a unique image designed from the start to be expressed in a particular printmaking technique. A print may be known as an impression. Printmaking is not chosen only for its ability to produce multiple impressions, but rather for the unique qualities that each of the printmaking processes lends itself to.

Intaglio (printmaking) family of printing and printmaking techniques

Intaglio is the family of printing and printmaking techniques in which the image is incised into a surface and the incised line or sunken area holds the ink. It is the direct opposite of a relief print.

Drypoint intaglio printmaking technique

Drypoint is a printmaking technique of the intaglio family, in which an image is incised into a plate with a hard-pointed "needle" of sharp metal or diamond point. In principle, the method is practically identical to engraving. The difference is in the use of tools, and that the raised ridge along the furrow is not scraped or filed away as in engraving. Traditionally the plate was copper, but now acetate, zinc, or plexiglas are also commonly used. Like etching, drypoint is easier to master than engraving for an artist trained in drawing because the technique of using the needle is closer to using a pencil than the engraver's burin.

Contents

Mezzotint is often combined with other intaglio techniques, usually etching and engraving. The process was especially widely used in England from the eighteenth century, to reproduce portraits and other paintings. It was somewhat in competition with the other main tonal technique of the day, aquatint. Since the mid-nineteenth century it has been relatively little used, as lithography and other techniques produced comparable results more easily. Robert Kipniss and Peter Ilsted are two notable 20th-century exponents of the technique; M. C. Escher also made eight mezzotints.

Etching intaglio printmaking technique

Etching is traditionally the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio (incised) in the metal. In modern manufacturing, other chemicals may be used on other types of material. As a method of printmaking, it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains in wide use today. In a number of modern variants such as microfabrication etching and photochemical milling it is a crucial technique in much modern technology, including circuit boards.

Engraving practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it

Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called "engravings". Engraving is one of the oldest and most important techniques in printmaking. Wood engraving is a form of relief printing and is not covered in this article.

Aquatint etching technique

Aquatint is an intaglio printmaking technique, a variant of etching that only produces areas of tone rather than lines. For this reason it has mostly been used in conjunction with etching, to give outlines. It has also been used historically to achieve prints in colour, both by printing with multiple plates in different colours, and by making monochrome prints that were then hand-coloured with watercolour.

History

The first known mezzotint, by Ludwig von Siegen, 1642. Worked from light to dark. Arolsen Klebeband 01 273.jpg
The first known mezzotint, by Ludwig von Siegen, 1642. Worked from light to dark.

The mezzotint printmaking method was invented by the German amateur artist Ludwig von Siegen (1609–c.1680). His earliest mezzotint print dates to 1642 and is a portrait of Countess Amalie Elisabeth of Hanau-Münzenberg. This was made by working from light to dark. The rocker seems to have been invented by Prince Rupert of the Rhine, a famous cavalry commander in the English Civil War, who was the next to use the process, and took it to England. Sir Peter Lely saw the potential for using it to publicise his portraits, and encouraged a number of Dutch printmakers to come to England. Godfrey Kneller worked closely with John Smith, who is said to have lived in his house for a period; he created about 500 mezzotints, some 300 copies of portrait paintings.

Ludwig von Siegen German engraver

Ludwig von Siegen was a German soldier and amateur engraver, who invented the printmaking technique of mezzotint, a printing-process reliant on mechanical pressure used to print more complex engravings than previously possible. He was a well-educated aristocrat, and a Lieutenant-Colonel who commanded the personal guard of William VI, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, and acted as a personal aide to the ruler, with the title kammerjunker or Chamberlain.

Countess Amalie Elisabeth of Hanau-Münzenberg Regent of Hesse-Kassel

Amalie Elisabeth of Hanau-Münzenberg (1602–1651) was Landgravine consort and Regent of Hesse-Kassel. She married the future William V, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel in 1619. Upon her husband's death in 1637, she became regent for their son William VI. Through skillful diplomacy and military successes in the Thirty Years' War, she advanced the fortunes of Hesse-Kassel and handed over an enlarged landgraviate to her son upon his majority in 1650. However, her health was ruined by the war, and she died in 1651.

Prince Rupert of the Rhine German prince, royalist general and admiral

Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Duke of Cumberland, was a noted German soldier, admiral, scientist, sportsman, colonial governor and amateur artist during the 17th century. He first came to prominence as a Cavalier cavalry commander during the English Civil War.

British mezzotint collecting was a great craze from about 1760 to the Great Crash of 1929, also spreading to America. The main area of collecting was British portraits; hit oil paintings from the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition were routinely, and profitably, reproduced in mezzotint throughout this period, and other mezzotinters reproduced older portraits of historical figures, or if necessary, made them up. The favourite period to collect was roughly from 1750 to 1820, the great period of the British portrait. There were two basic styles of collection: some concentrated on making a complete collection of material within a certain scope, while others aimed at perfect condition and quality (which declines in mezzotints after a relatively small number of impressions are taken from a plate), and in collecting the many "proof states" which artists and printers had obligingly provided for them from early on. Leading collectors included William Eaton, 2nd Baron Cheylesmore and the Irishman John Chaloner Smith. [3]

Wall Street Crash of 1929 stock Market crash of 1929

The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Stock Market Crash of 1929 or the Great Crash, is a major stock market crash that occurred in late October 1929. It started on October 24 and continued until October 29, 1929, when share prices on the New York Stock Exchange collapsed.

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

The Summer Exhibition is an open art exhibition held annually by the Royal Academy in Burlington House, Piccadilly in central London, England, during the months of June, July, and August. The exhibition includes paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, architectural designs and models, and is the largest and most popular open exhibition in the United Kingdom.

State (printmaking) print made by a permanent change to a matrix

In printmaking, a state is a different form of a print, caused by a deliberate and permanent change to a matrix such as a copper plate or woodblock.

Dark to light method

This became the most common method. The whole surface (usually) of a metal, usually copper, plate is roughened evenly, manually with a rocker, or mechanically. If the plate were printed at this point it would show as solid black. The image is then created by selectively burnishing areas of the surface of the metal plate with metal tools; the smoothed parts will print lighter than those areas not smoothed by the burnishing tool. A burnisher has a smooth, round end, which flattens the minutely protruding points comprising the roughened surface of the metal printing plate. Areas smoothed completely flat will not hold ink at all; such areas will print "white," that is, without ink. By varying the degree of smoothing, mid-tones between black and white can be created, hence the name mezzo-tinto which is Italian for "half-tone" or "half-painted". This is called working from "dark to light", or the "subtractive" method.

Metal element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat

A metal is a material that, when freshly prepared, polished, or fractured, shows a lustrous appearance, and conducts electricity and heat relatively well. Metals are typically malleable or ductile. A metal may be a chemical element such as iron, or an alloy such as stainless steel.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to Vulgar Latin of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. In spite of not existing any Italian community in their respective national territories and of not being spoken at any level, Italian is included de jure, but not de facto, between the recognized minority languages of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both standardized Italian and other regional languages.

Light to dark method

Early mezzotint by Vaillerant, Siegen's assistant or tutor. Young man reading, with statue of Cupid. Probably made using light to dark technique. 27.5 x 21.3 cm 6409 bassenge2vaillerant.jpg
Early mezzotint by Vaillerant, Siegen's assistant or tutor. Young man reading, with statue of Cupid. Probably made using light to dark technique. 27.5 × 21.3 cm

Alternatively, it is possible to create the image directly by only roughening a blank plate selectively, where the darker parts of the image are to be. This is called working from "light to dark", or the "additive" method. The first mezzotints by Ludwig von Siegen were made in this way. Especially in this method, the mezzotint can be combined with other intaglio techniques, such as engraving, on areas of the plate not roughened, or even with the dark to light method.

Printing

Printing the finished plate is the same for either method, and follows the normal way for an intaglio plate; the whole surface is inked, the ink is then wiped off the surface to leave ink only in the pits of the still rough areas below the original surface of the plate. The plate is put through a high-pressure printing press next to a sheet of paper, and the process repeated.

Because the pits in the plate are not deep, only a small number of top-quality impressions (copies) can be printed before the quality of the tone starts to degrade as the pressure of the press begins to smooth them out. Perhaps only one or two hundred really good impressions can be taken.[ citation needed ]

Detailed technique

Plates can be mechanically roughened; one way is to rub fine metal filings over the surface with a piece of glass; the finer the filings, the smaller the grain of the surface. Special roughening tools called 'rockers' have been in use since at least the eighteenth century. The method commonly in use today is to use a steel rocker approximately five inches wide, which has between 45 and 120 teeth per inch on the face of a blade in the shape of a shallow arc, with a wooden handle projecting upwards in a T-shape. Rocked steadily from side to side at the correct angle, the rocker will proceed forward creating burrs in the surface of the copper. The plate is then moved – either rotated by a set number of degrees or through 90 degrees according to preference – and then rocked in another pass. This is repeated until the plate is roughened evenly and will print a completely solid tone of black.

Tone

Mezzotint is known for the luxurious quality of its tones: first, because an evenly, finely roughened surface holds a lot of ink, allowing deep solid colors to be printed; secondly because the process of smoothing the plate with burin, burnisher and scraper allows fine gradations in tone to be developed. The scraper is a triangular ended tool, and the burnisher has a smooth round end – not unlike many spoon handles.

Mezzotint engravers

Notes

  1. Portrait of Miss Voss as St Agnes 1690s
  2. "Definition of MEZZOTINT". www.merriam-webster.com.
  3. Griffiths, 134–137 and 141–142

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Lithography is a method of printing originally based on the immiscibility of oil and water. The printing is from a stone or a metal plate with a smooth surface. It was invented in 1796 by German author and actor Alois Senefelder as a cheap method of publishing theatrical works. Lithography can be used to print text or artwork onto paper or other suitable material.

Printing process for reproducing text and images, typically with ink on paper using a printing press

Printing is a process for reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest non-paper products involving printing include cylinder seals and objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus. The earliest known form of printing as applied to paper was woodblock printing, which appeared in China before 220 AD. Later developments in printing technology include the movable type invented by Bi Sheng around 1040 AD and the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. The technology of printing played a key role in the development of the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

Collagraphy was introduced in 1955 by Glen Alps and is a printmaking process in which materials are applied to a rigid substrate. The word is derived from the Greek word koll or kolla, meaning glue, and graph, meaning the activity of drawing.

Relief printing printing technique

Relief printing is a family of printing methods where a printing block, plate or matrix that has had ink applied to its surface, but not to any recessed areas, is brought into contact with paper. The areas of the printing plate with ink will leave ink on the paper, whereas the recessed areas of the printing plate will leave the paper ink-free. A printing press may not be needed, as the back of the paper can be rubbed or pressed by hand with a simple tool such as a brayer or roller.

Photogravure printmaking technique

Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking or photo-mechanical process whereby a copper plate is grained and then coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue which had been exposed to a film positive, and then etched, resulting in a high quality intaglio plate that can reproduce detailed continuous tones of a photograph.

Wood engraving technique in printmaking and letterpress printing

Wood engraving is a printmaking and letterpress printing technique, in which an artist works an image or matrix of images into a block of wood. Functionally a variety of woodcut, it uses relief printing, where the artist applies ink to the face of the block and prints using relatively low pressure. By contrast, ordinary engraving, like etching, uses a metal plate for the matrix, and is printed by the intaglio method, where the ink fills the valleys, the removed areas. As a result, wood engravings deteriorate less quickly than copper-plate engravings, and have a distinctive white-on-black character.

Line engraving engraved images printed on paper

Line engraving is a term for engraved images printed on paper to be used as prints or illustrations. The term is now much less used and when is, it is mainly in connection with 18th or 19th century commercial illustrations for magazines and books, or reproductions of paintings.

Carborundum printmaking

Carborundum Mezzotint is a printmaking technique in which the image is created by adding light passages to a dark field. It is a relatively new process invented in the US during the 1930s by Hubert Mesibov, Michael J. Gallagher, and Dox Thrash, an artist working in Philadelphia with the WPA). "Carborundum Collagraph" collagraph is a different printmaking technique, invented in 1952 by Henri Goetz, an American abstract artist living in Paris. The carborundum mezzotint uses the grits to create pits below the surface of the metal that then hold ink, like traditional mezzotint. The carborundum collagraph creates the image above the surface of the matrix, which does not have to be metal. In one method, the grits are mixed into a paste using an acrylic base that is painted onto the matrix, creating the image much like painting. Once dried, this holds the ink; the wiping and printing are done the same as etching. The techniques described following and below are alternatives to the paste mixture technique, yet all are creating the image above the surface of the matrix. Carbordundum collagraph allows artists to work on a large scale. Normally, cardboard or wood plates are coated in a layer of carborundum or screen, and the lights are created by filling in the texture with screen filler or glue. Carborundum prints may be printed as intaglio plates.

Viscosity printing is a multi-color printmaking technique that incorporates principles of relief printing and intaglio printing. It was pioneered by Stanley William Hayter.

Steel engraving

Steel engraving is a technique for printing illustrations based on steel instead of copper. It has been rarely used in artistic printmaking, although it was much used for reproductions in the 19th century. Steel engraving was introduced in 1792 by Jacob Perkins (1766–1849), an American inventor, for banknote printing. When Perkins moved to London in 1818, the technique was adapted in 1820 by Charles Warren and especially by Charles Heath (1785–1848) for Thomas Campbell's Pleasures of Hope, which contained the first published plates engraved on steel. The new technique only partially replaced the other commercial techniques of that time such as woodcut, wood engraving, copper engraving and later lithography. All the illustrations in the Encyclopædia Britannica of 1911 are steel engravings.

Vitreography

Vitreography is a fine art printmaking technique that uses a 38-inch-thick (9.5 mm) float glass matrix instead of the traditional matrices of metal, wood or stone. A print created using the technique is called a vitreograph. Unlike a monotype, in which ink is painted onto a smooth glass plate and transferred to paper to produce a unique work, the vitreograph technique involves fixing the imagery in, or on, the glass plate. This allows the production of an edition of prints.

Stipple engraving technique used to create tone in a print

Stipple engraving is a technique used to create tone in an intaglio print by distributing a pattern of dots of various sizes and densities across the image. The pattern is created on the printing plate either in engraving by gouging out the dots with a burin, or through an etching process. Stippling was used as an adjunct to conventional line engraving and etching for over two centuries, before being developed as a distinct technique in the mid-18th century.

Robert Kipniss is an American painter and printmaker. His mature paintings, lithographs, mezzotints, and drypoints share stylistic characteristics and subject matter and typically depict trees seen close up or at varying distances in fields. Other works show one or more houses in a landscape or town setting. Some are interiors with a view toward a window or with a still life set close to one, frequently with a landscape beyond. No human figures are present, and all forms are reduced to essentials. The time is often dusk or nighttime. Kipniss' use of exceptionally subtle black and white tones or, less often, lightly toned hues creates an overall atmospheric effect. His works have been described as conveying solitude and inward experience. Kipniss often uses the subject matter of a painting in a lithograph or mezzotint, sometimes with variations. His paintings date from the early 1950s. His main body of prints are lithographs and mezzotints, the former dating from 1968 into 1990, the latter since 1990.

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