Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - Drawing - Printing - Gallery Notes

Impression - State - Edition - Bon à Tirer

From: Works on Paper Series. Print, Drawing, and Photography Galleries. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Works on Paper - Introduction
To Printmaking Processes

I N D E X - Relief print - Woodcut - Linoleum cut - Intaglio print - Etching - Engraving - Drypoint - Aquatint - Mezzotint - Planographic print - Lithography - Serigraph - Silkscreen - Stencil print - Ground - Tusche - Tympan - Squeegee - Multiple Works of Art - An impression - A state - of the first state - of the second state, and so forth - An edition

The collections in the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs are shown in exhibitions that change regularly. Works of art on paper cannot be exposed to light for long periods of time for reasons of preservation. In addition, the size of the collection - some 500 thousand objects - makes it possible to display only a small part of it at any one time. Exhibitions may focus on a certain artist, a particular period of time, a technique, or a chosen theme.

This brochure summarizes basic printmaking techniques, but does not discuss specific works of art. More detailed Gallery Notes - Woodcut; Engraving, Etching, Related Techniques; Lithography and Silkscreen; Drawing Techniques - explain one or more techniques and give a brief history of their development, illustrated with major works from the Museum of Fine ArtsÍ collection. We hope this information will help you understand and enjoy the current exhibition.

W o o d c u t
A woodcut is a relief print; the raised areas hold the ink. A linoleum cut is another type of relief print. A rubber stamp is an everyday example of a relief print.

Preparing the Image
1. The printmaker cuts an image on a block of wood.

2. The printmaker uses sharp tools to cut away areas that will not print. The raised shapes will print.

Printing the Image
3. The printmaker rolls thick, sticky ink over the surface of the block with a roller.

4. The printmaker places a sheet of paper on the block and rubs the back of the paper. The ink transfers from the block to the paper. A press can also be used for this step.

5. The printmaker carefully pulls the paper away from the block. The image has been printed on it in reverse.

E t c h i n g
An etching is an ^intaglio print; the areas that hold the ink are below the surface of the plate. Other intaglio techniques include ^engraving, ^drypoint, ^aquatint, and ^mezzotint.

Preparing the Image
1. The printmaker covers a metal plate with a waxy coating [the ^ground], then draws an image in the ground with a sharp needle. The needle scrapes through the ground and exposes the metal, but the needle does not scrape into the plate. Wherever a line is drawn with the needle, there will be a line in the final print.

2. The plate is placed in a pan of dilute acid. The acid eats into the exposed metal and makes a groove. The acid resistant ground protects the other areas. The printmaker removes the plate from the acid when the groves are deep enough. The ground is removed.

Printing the Image
3. The printmaker covers the plate with thick, sticky ink, rubbing ink into all the groves.

4. The printmaker wipes the surface of the plate clean, so only the ink in the grooves is left. Printmakers often use the side of their hand to wipe off the last traces of ink.

5. A sheet of damp paper is placed on top of the plate and padded with a blanket. They are rolled through the press. The paper picks up the ink in the groves in the plate. When the paper is pulled away from the plate, the image has been printed on it in reverse.

L i t h o g r a p h y
A lithograph is a planographic print; the surface from which it is printed is flat.

Preparing the Image
1. The printmaker draws or paints an image on a special slab of smooth limestone or a metal plate. Greasy crayons are used or a greasy ink called ^tusche.

2. The surface of the stone is treated with a mild mixture of gum arabic and nitric acid. As a result the image will attract greasy ink and the blank areas will attract water. Grease and water do not mix. The printmaker dissolves the ink of the original drawing with turpentine. However, a ghostlike image of the drawing remains on the stone.

Printing the Image
1. The surface of the stone is kept wet during printing. Water collects on the blank areas.

4. Greasy ink is rolled on with a roller. It is repelled by the wet areas. The ink sticks only where the marks of the drawing were.

5. A sheet of paper is placed on top of the stone and is covered with a backing sheet and a stiff, slick-surfaced board called a tympan. A scraper bar creates pressure as they pass through the press. When the paper is pulled away form the stone, the image has been printed on it in reverse.

S i l k s c r e e n
A silkscreen [also called a serigraph] is a stencil print.

Preparing the Image
1. The printmaker cuts an image in a sheet of paper or plastic film.

2. The printmaker removes the cut-away areas, creating a stencil. The open spaces in the stencil are the shapes that will print.

3. The stencil is placed on a screen made of silk or other thin cloth, stretched on a frame.

Printing the Image
4. A piece of paper is placed under the frame. The printmaker pulls a thin rubber blade [a ^squeegee] across the screen. This squeezes ink through the open areas of the screen onto the paper underneath. In the other areas, the ink is blocked.

5. When the screen is raised, the image has been printed on the paper. It is not in reverse.

M u l t i p l e   W o r k s   o f   A r t
One of the primary characteristics of printmaking is that many nearly identical images can be made by inking and printing the same block, plate, stone, or screen again and again. This makes it possible for many people to see or own an image. Many printmakers also value the opportunity this provides to create a series of variations on a theme - printings from the same block, plate, stone, or screen that are not identical. After printing some images, the artist may decide to add or remove lines, use different colors, wipe the ink in different ways, or use a variety of papers.

An impression is a single print from a block, plate, stone, or screen. A state is any stage in the development of a print at which impressions are printed. Prints from the earliest stage are said to be of the first state. If the printmaker then changes the block, plate, etc., the next group of prints are said to be of the second state, and so forth. A change of state only occurs when the artist makes changes on the block, plate, stone or screen. The artist may decide to vary the inking or printing, but that is not a change of state.

An edition is the total number of impressions printed in a particular state. Today the artist numbers the prints to indicate the size of the edition. For example, 4/50 means it is the fourth impression from a total of fifty impressions [although this does not necessarily represent the actual order of printing].

Illustration [Note included in this document]:
Cover for L'estampe originale, 1893. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French [1864-1901]. Color lithograph, detail.

This is one in a series of gallery notes on the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The entire series, including an introduction, four gallery notes for adults, and one for young people, is for sale in the Museum Shop. This gallery note was prepared by Barbara T. Martin, illustrated by Alice Briggs, and language adjusted for the hearing impaired by Constance Jacobson.

© 1984, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. Telephone 617-267-9300.

[From: Drawing Techniques, Gallery Notes P5 - Works on Paper Series. Print, Drawing, and Photography Galleries. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.]



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