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What is an art print ?

The definition of an art print

Print is a generic term for an image made using a board (wood, metal, stone, etc.) previously engraved and inked, obtained on paper using a press.The printing of a print may be carried out in several copies called «proofs».

It is agreed to call «original print» a print designed, and executed on the board by a single artist.Nevertheless, many quality prints have been executed by artists after other painters or draughtsmen, these are «interpretation prints».

The artist’s handwritten signature and the drawing justification, in the lower margin, did not appear until the end of the 19th century.

The proofs of the same print are not exactly identical, due to the manual intervention (inking, pressure).Apart from these definitive proofs there are proofs testifying to the different stages of the drawing of the board, The artist sometimes makes prints of some proofs during his work, before reworking the board to obtain the final result.These proofs, called «states» are listed in the order of evolution of the work.

The techniques of the print

The different techniques leading to the printing of the print can be grouped according to whether the material (wood, metal, stone, etc.) or the method of elaboration (manual or chemical) but the most classical classification is based on the mode of drawing.

There are four categories :

I - Printing from wood :

1 – xylography (engraved wood) :

Although the process has been known in China since the 7th century, it appeared in Europe at the end of the 14th century.The wood plate is cut in the direction of the fibre.It is cut with penknife and gouge to clear the parts that will remain white in the print, leaving the pattern in relief, it is this one that once inked will print on the paper.By using several woods each representing a part of the drawing and by superimposing the prints on the same sheet, a colour print can be made.

2 - linogravure :

The technique is the same as that used for engraved wood.We use linoleum, more economical and much easier to work than hardwood.

II – Metal Printing :

Different techniques can be used for the same print.A polychrome print, is obtained either with a single board by inking each part of different colors, or by superimposing several boards, each for a particular color.

1 - Burin :

It’s the oldest soft-cut engraving technique. Its origin is the stampings which the silversmiths drew from their ornamental work on metal in order to keep a witness of it. This technique, which appeared simultaneously in Italy and Germany in the middle of the 15th century, spread to other countries from the 16th century onwards. The engraver digs a copper plate, using a steel tool called a chisel. The drawing is thus formed by more or less deep grooves in the form of V. The board is then inked and wiped. Under high pressure the moist paper moulds into the hollows and retains the ink there giving a slight relief to the touch. The pressure exerted by the press on a soft face leaves a trace of the «plank blow» commonly known as «basin».

2 - Drypoint :

The use of the dry-tip dates back to the 15th century. The artist draws using a needle on a metal plate. The «beards» formed by the scraped metal, are preserved to retain the ink.

3 - Eau-forte

The process has been used since the 15th century. Under the generic name of etching, all the techniques consisting of engraving with acid, a plate of solid metal. The metal plate being covered with a varnish, a drawing with a point is made. The passage in a bath of acid hollows out the parts thus cleared, while the varnished parts are protected.

4 – aquatint

Invented in the middle of the 18th century by the French Jean-Baptiste Leprince, the aquatinte makes an effect imitating lavis. The copper plate is covered with powder (bitumen, resin, or other) fixed by heating. The acid bites the copper between the grains, giving the impression of half-tints.

5 - Black way

This technique was discovered in 1642 by the German Ludwig Von Siegen.

We obtain the image by a process of scratching on a brass plate(patch) beforehand covered with a grenage leaving no smooth surface. Left such which the test(event) would be of a uniform black, by giving up more or month the grain(bead) or by polishing them, we obtain gradations going up to the white.

6 - Soft varnish

For this variant of the etching we apply a paper sheet to the board coated with a soft varnish. The drawing is executed on the sheet(leaf) which, torn away(extracted) from its support(medium), leaves the visible line(feature) on the plate(patch).

III – Printing from stone (lithography):

Invented in Bavaria around 1796-1798 by Aloys Senefelder, the process spread successfully in the 19th century.The drawing, executed with a greasy ink, is fixed on the lithographic stone.Thanks to its chemical properties, the dampened stone retains the printing ink on the drawn parts and rejects it on the intact parts.The drawing is made directly on the stone using various tools: lithographic chalk, feather, brush, brush, etc.

IV – Silk screen printing (screen printing):

Screen printing has as its ancestor the stencils used long before our era, in the Far East, for the decoration of fabrics.The colour is applied in the hollow part of a sheet (paper, metal, leather...) using a brush.The stencil is also used to color prints in black).In 1907, in Great Britain, Samuel Simon perfected the process by using a stencil delimited by a varnish on silk.Very quickly the invention, destined for the textile industry, finds new applications.The inking is carried out by sieving through the undiscovered parts.

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