Spring Blossoms, from “Harper's Weekly”
Wood engravings were commonly used in the 19th century to illustrate stories in magazines and newspapers. Photography began to replace such illustration of printed materials in the early 20th century.
This process is the opposite of relief printing. Ink is forced into grooves incised into a metal plate surface, so that it lies below the surface. When dampened paper is pressed onto the plate it picks up the ink from the grooves. In ETCHING and ENGRAVING, the artist builds up dark areas by putting many fine lines close together. In an ETCHING, a metal plate is coated with a waxy, acid-resistant ground. The image is drawn into the ground with a fine needle, exposing the metal in the fine lines. When the plate is exposed to an acid bath, the acid only etches areas scratched through the ground. In an ENGRAVING, the lines are scratched into the bare metal, and are rarely as fine as those of an etching. Engraving on copper was first developed in the early 15th century and was used for illustration. Much finer detail is possible in etching and engraving as opposed to woodcuts. Later engraving was used to reproduce painted works of art for mass consumption. Few contemporary artists use the engraving medium, because few of them are interest in sharp detail. Most contemporary artists like the variety of effects possible in etching. In MEZZOTINT and AQUATINT, large areas of the plate are roughened either by filing or acid so that ink adheres to the large areas in order to print a flat tone. In DRYPOINT, a needle is used to scratch lines in the plate surface. The ridge of metal at the grooves, called a BURR, catches and holds ink, which softens the image of the printed line.
Artform: GRAPHIC ARTS, Pre-20th Century
Artist: Homer, Winslow
Artist Dates: 1836-1910
Country/Culture: United States
Period: 19th century
Date: May 21, 1870
Medium: wood engraving on paper
Size: 22.9 x 35.6 cm
Subject: Figure Groups
Museum: Cleveland Museum of Art
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