Source: Oxford University Press
The incising of images into metal and other hard materials was practised long before engraved surfaces were used as printing matrices (see Metal, §V ; see also Gold, §2 , and Silver, §3). Engraved stone, bone, ivory and shell objects from Palaeolithic sites are evidence that incising an image is old and widespread. Mesopotamian engraving, for example, was highly developed in technique, style and subject-matter, and cylinder seals impressed into clay of c. 3300 BC are perhaps the earliest examples of printed, engraved images. The art of niello, in which a powder of sulphur, mineral oxides and borax was rubbed into the lines of an engraved design and then heated to form a shiny black deposit, was a precursor of printed engravings. It was practised by the ancient Egyptians and was popular among the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Anglo-Saxons and throughout the Renaissance. The Florentine niellist and draughtsman Maso Finiguerra is credited by Giorgio Vasari with inventing the idea of printing engravings on paper from niello plates, but scholars question whether he was actually printing on paper from the casts.
1. Before c 1430
The invention of printing engravings on paper was connected to three factors: the idea of using an engraved plate as a means of reproducing an image, the availability of paper and the means of applying pressure. The precise location at which these came together has been the subject of debate, with both Germany and Italy having its proponents. Most scholars believe that the practice of impressing paper on engraved plates originated in the workshops of south German goldsmiths in the Rhine Valley in the second quarter of the 15th century. Goldsmiths would make a record of designs incised in metal by filling the lines with ink and impressing paper against it. These printed designs could be used to help in the transfer of symmetrical and repeated elements and for training and record-keeping.
The first important centre of paper manufacture in Italy was set up at Fabriano c. 1276. Other mills were established in northern Italy during the 14th century, supplying not only Italian but also south German demand. Paper mills were first established in Germany c. 1320 near Cologne and Mainz, and in the Netherlands by the beginning of the 15th century. The use of paper for writing became common throughout Europe by the second half of the 14th century, essentially replacing vellum in the 15th. This new availability of paper was the key to the ‘invention’ of printing in Europe and first appeared in connection with relief printed blocks. Vertical pressure presses (wine presses) existed in the Rhineland and had already been adapted for printing woodcuts c. 1400. The dual cylinder or ‘etching’ press seems to have come into use by 1500. Oil-extended solid inks were also a German invention.
2. c 1430–c 1500.
(i) Northern Europe
Important engraving centres developed along the Upper Rhine from Konstanz and Basle to Colmar and Strasbourg. The earliest engravers did not generally sign and date their prints, and their works have been attributed to various hands on stylistic grounds. Scholars have ‘named’ hundreds of these anonymous engravers after characteristic elements or subjects in their prints, such as the Master of 1446, after the earliest date on an engraving, and the Master of the Playing Cards. Although their real names remain unknown, individual styles and hands are distinguishable, and many of them were highly accomplished artists. Later engravers began signing works with monograms, hallmarks and symbols, and eventually their names. The increasing importance of the engraving and the individual who designed it is reflected in the fact that by c. 1460 Master E.S. was the first printmaker to sign some of his prints with his monogram, and from c. 1470 Martin Schongauer monogrammed almost all his prints.
Because engraving was not so much invented as joined to the new technology of printing, one cannot speak of a ‘primitive’ phase; goldsmith-engravers continued to use techniques developed previously. Fifteenth-century northern European engraving is firmly rooted in the Gothic style. The earliest engravings are not purely linear but incorporate texture, shadow, modelling and pattern, which is unsurprising, since goldsmiths had been dealing with such pictorial problems for centuries. While many early engravers were trained as goldsmiths, others, however, seem to have been trained as painters, judging from their broader handling of form and detail. In the work of such an engraver-painter as the Master of the Playing Cards, contours were firmly engraved with a descriptive and restless line, and internal forms, such as facial features, were cut with delicacy. Certain mannerisms taken from drawing and also seen in early woodcuts, such as the ‘fish-hook’ end to a line in drapery, were used by this master and his contemporaries. Early engravers used a variety of cuts to create tonality and modelling. These include laying down hundreds of tiny straight strokes, with no particular reference to the direction of a plane, long hatchmarks and random crosshatching, with or without stippling.
The Master E.S., believed to have been a goldsmith, was active near Lake Constance and produced over 200 prints. He seems to have been the first to turn his plate against the burin as he cut modelling lines, resulting in a more logical system that followed and expressed form sculpturally. He also developed a systematic method of crosshatching that responds to form and produces a greatly enriched range of darks. Developments in northern European engraving after 1450 included increased interest in light, shade and environment, construction of pictorial space and use of the expanded narrative series as a focus for human drama.
Many early engravings were scenes from the Life of Christ, the Passion and images of the saints. These were sold as souvenirs at pilgrimage sites and were often used for personal devotion. Other prints had secular functions, such as New Year’s greetings, playing cards and amorous and chivalric images. Although most engravers would have been well trained in drawing, the engraver did not necessarily design the image. Some engravings clearly reproduce paintings and have strong stylistic connections with known painters active in a given locale. Goldsmith designs were handed down through copying, so the reproduction of an image was intrinsic to the goldsmith-engraver’s craft. Engravings were frequently copied by other engravers and so exist in more than one version. Engraving became a medium of stylistic diffusion, as these portable objects were used as reference material in artists’ workshops. Early engravings have been identified as the sources of images produced by 15th-century artists working in other media, such as book illumination and sculpture. In comparison with early woodcuts, engravings were a luxury item, more expensive to produce and made by more highly trained artist-engravers. Perhaps because of their relative value, more engravings were preserved at the time, pasted into books or boxes. Early engravings have survived, often in more than one impression. The cheaper, ephemeral, early single-sheet woodcuts were less likely to have been saved by their original users and consequently are rarer today, with many known only in unique impressions.
The most important northern European engraver in the last quarter of the century was Martin Schongauer. The son of a goldsmith, he worked primarily as a painter but also produced about 100 engravings. His early graphic technique stressed black line against the white ground of the paper, with form articulated by hundreds of tiny strokes and dots. He gradually incorporated some of the Master E.S.’s innovations, eventually surpassing him and developing an immaculately crafted, masterful graphic language capable of expressing form, tone, space and surface. As his art developed, he moved from complexity to clarity and monumentality, exploring both Flemish gravity and Germanic expression, for example in his mature engraving, the two-part Annunciation (c. 1490beginend). His engravings are characterized by a feeling of constant movement as the eye is led by the gesturing figures and the ceaselessly exploring contour line. Schongauer extended engraving’s range of tonalities, creating visually rich images, which were often copied and much imitated. Artists strongly influenced by Schongauer include the south German Master L.Cz., whose energetic and spontaneous burin work created colouristic surfaces that sparkle with contrasts and whose style combines the delicate solemnity of Schongauer’s figure types with a greater sense of landscape space and delight in the luxuriance of the natural world. The prolific Israhel van Meckenem (ii) was the son of the engraver Israhel van Meckenem (i), known as the Master of the Berlin Passion (an identification that is now in question). Van Meckenem (ii)’s works comprise mainly copies after such engravers as the Master E.S., but he also engraved c. 150 images after his own designs. Many of these show a great interest in secular subjects and contemporary life and style, drawn in a lively manner. After c. 1480 he used a very dense crosshatching system, introducing new levels of rich blackness. Many of his later works have a breadth of conception comparable to panel painting but exploit engraving’s ability to show the tiniest details. His enormous output shows that engraving was well established commercially by the late 15th century. It has been plausibly suggested that another engraver in this workshop was his wife, Ida van Meckenem, known from his engraved self-portrait with her, making her the earliest-known woman engraver.
In the Lower Rhine Valley and the Netherlands engraving developed in a manner similar to the Upper Rhine, with its major artists appearing slightly later. The Dutch Master IAM of Zwolle engraved animated, startlingly expressive compositions containing angular, rigid and flattened figures. Master FVB produced important works in which the figures were strongly influenced by Schongauer but with less interest in psychological interaction and more in incidental decorative detail. He excelled in contrasting intricate, highlighted forms against dark crosshatched backgrounds.
By the last quarter of the 15th century northern European engraving was capable of a greatly expanded range of pictorial effects. It evolved from a predominantly linear mode, which described static form in an uncolouristic way, to the expression of a rich range of contrasts, as well as textures, by means of linear systems, of which contour was only one element.
Italian engraving was also rooted in and influenced stylistically by goldsmithing and niello. Florence was the first major centre, with Ferrara, Bologna, Mantua, Milan and Venice having significant activity later in the 15th century. All the major early Florentine engravers had a background in goldsmithing and were in contact with the niellist Finiguerra. Most, however, did not merely reproduce the niello manner of engraving light against dark but worked in a more open style, emphasizing outline and form against a light ground. Many 15th-century engravings are printed in a pale grey ink, in contrast to the more densely pigmented German inks, so the overall print has less contrast between the line and the paper.
From the outset, Italian engraving was closely connected with drawing in pen and wash. Early Italian engraving shares with contemporary drawing clarity of design, monumentality of form, firmness of outline and rational space. Early Italian engraving prints are traditionally grouped in two categories: ‘fine manner’ and ‘broad manner’. In fine-manner prints contour lines define forms, and fine, delicate hatching and crosshatching strokes express modelling, imitating the effect of pen and wash, as in the work of Baccio Baldini. Broad-manner engraving reflects vigorous pen drawing, with the back-and-forth hatching reproduced by the burin; Francesco Rosselli was one of the most important practitioners of this style. Some engravers worked in both manners, making attributions problematic. The style of well-known artists is often reflected in early Italian engraving, and such artists as Botticelli designed specifically for engraving, including his series illustrating Dante’s Inferno, engraved by Baldini. In addition to imitating drawing, engravers copied other engravings, including northern European prints. The subject-matter of Italian prints is highly varied, including religious, secular, amorous and erotic subjects. Series, such as the planets, the Trionfi of Francesco Petrarch and ‘Tarocchi’ cards, were popular.
Antonio del Pollaiuolo, painter, sculptor and goldsmith, designed and engraved only one surviving print, the Battle of the Ten Nudes (c. 1470–75). It is one of the most important 15th-century engravings and was the largest, most complex plate and also the earliest to be fully signed. Much speculation has taken place on its meaning. The image reveals Pollaiuolo’s ability to render the nude in a variety of positions and views. Although the shallow space and friezelike design owe much to antique relief and to niello, the engraving technique is in the looser ‘broad manner’ startend. This rain of fine parallel hatching defining the musculature, systematically laid down from left to right with little reference to the direction of the form, imitates the pen work of the original drawing.
The Florentine engraver Robetta is associated with c. 40 engravings. The figures in these show the influence of Filippino Lippi and other Italian sources. Robetta often combined these with landscapes derived from prints by Schongauer and Dürer. His original and vigorous engraving style is related to drawing rather than painting. His cutting technique was less systematic than that of many of his contemporaries, and he employed short bursts of fine, curving, parallel lines and flecks to model form. Outlines were built up with multiple cuts, describing outer contours without dominating the tonal areas.
An important group of prints is associated with andrea Mantegna and the Mantegna school engravers Zoan Andrea and Giovanni Antonio da Brescia, among others. Mantegna has traditionally been thought to have engraved only seven prints himself, but his drawings were the basis for many others. In the late 20th century the question of attribution was under re-examination (Boorsch, Landau). Stylistically, many of the Mantegna prints are ‘broad-manner’ engravings and show much influence of Pollaiuolo, but many of the later prints are in a ‘fine’ style. Whether this is a question of evolution or reflects the different backgrounds of the engravers, it is clear that these engravings were meant to imitate Mantegna’s pen drawings. In contrast to those of Pollaiuolo, in such prints as the Risen Christ (early 1470s; Hind, no. 7) and the Battle of the Sea Gods (1470s; Hind, nos 5, 6) the outlines are less fluid, more angular, more varied in width of line and have more interior drawing. The device of leaving white space between hatching and a contour to help round a form is frequently employed, and some of Mantegna’s engravers used it with less understanding than others. Mantegna’s Virgin and Child (c. 1480–85; Hind, no. 1), in which the image appears to have been developed as it was engraved, is convincing as an autograph work. Mantegna and Mantegna school prints include innovative narrative scenes from the Passion, and classicism permeates his vision of both Christian and ancient mythology and history. Mantegna prints were widely influential in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.
3. c 1500–c 1600.
(i) Major exponents and their influences.
In the evolution from line to tone, the work of Albrecht Dürer far exceeded what had been achieved by his predecessors. He not only perfected engraving technique and expanded its subject-matter but also made it a fully independent art form. Dürer’s earliest engravings, such as the Oriental Family (c. 1496; b. 85), are firmly in the 15th-century northern European tradition and show the influence of Schongauer in their use of line and of the Housebook Master in the intimate informality of their subjects. The burin work of the technically innovative Prodigal Son amid the Swine (c. 1496; b. 28) imitates the specific textures of the barnyard, and Dürer exploited the burr’s ability to catch ink. In this early work his understanding of musculature is evident, and the representation of landscape and pictorial space is ambitious. Classical and mythological subject-matter and a continuing study of the nude began appearing in such prints as Nemesis (1501–3; b. 77).
By 1500 Dürer was engraving grey tones composed of tiny lines and flecks that smooth transitions into an ever deeper pictorial space. Landscape and naturalistic details, such as the animals in St Eustache (c. 1501; b. 57), became more important, and first-hand observation of towns, castles and ruins gave a new realism to his images. The Fall of Man (1504; b. 1), the only print that he fully signed and dated, demonstrates his skill as an engraver and his mastery of the nude, and it achieved a synthesis between sculptural Italian classicism and northern realism with its emphasis on description, texture and light. In a trilogy of images exploring human temperament he created his masterworks: Knight, Death and the Devil (1513; b. 98), St Jerome in his Study (1514; b. 60beginend) and Melencolia I (1514; b. 74beginend). In his engravings after 1515, including the new subject of portraiture, Dürer simplified and monumentalized his compositions, which he achieved with subtle tonal range and deliberate use of the paper as light; he used parallel lines that filter the white of the paper, and intermingled delicate hatching and dotting to create greys.
Dürer’s realism and his technique influenced the works of his contemporary Albrecht Altdorfer and the next generation of Nuremberg artists, George Pencz, Sebald Beham, Barthel Beham and Heinrich Aldegrever, known collectively as the Little masters, after the size of their prints. Their works also show knowledge of Marcantonio Raimondi’s line system and understanding of Classical form. Among this group, Aldegrever remained closest to a purely northern tradition.
One of the most influential engravers of the 16th century, marcantonio Raimondi, was a student of Francesco Francia, a painter. Raimondi was a product of Bolognese humanism and antiquarianism, and his interest in antique sculpture is evident in his mastery of plasticity. By c. 1506 Raimondi was working in Venice, which was emerging as an important centre for engraving, influenced by the colourism and atmospheric effects of Venetian painting, and for such engravers as Jacopo de’ Barbari, Girolamo Mocetto, Giulio Campagnola and his son Domenico Campagnola. Jacopo de’ Barbari, the first important Italian engraver to travel and work in Germany and the Netherlands, influenced Dürer; their relationship has been carefully studied. His work is characterized by figures with elongated insubstantial bodies engraved with long, elegant, massed parallel strokes that give his prints a silvery, atmospheric quality. In Venice, Raimondi engraved copies of Dürer’s engravings and woodcuts; in 1506 Dürer brought a legal complaint against him. Raimondi was, in a sense, Dürer’s greatest student, learning from his prints a more refined and orderly technique, and incorporating a greater range, delicacy and expressiveness of cuts. Raimondi seems to have learnt something of the use of stipple from Giulio Campagnola, a highly original artist, who made prints after his own designs and borrowed from such sources as Dürer’s prints. Campagnola developed a method of engraving that was flexible enough to imitate and interpret painterly tone and atmosphere through the predominant use of stipple. His design after Mantegna’s St John the Baptist (Hind, no. 5) sets a tightly outlined figure, modelled entirely with dots, into a stippled Giorgionesque sfumato landscape.
Raimondi left Venice c. 1508, and it is assumed that he travelled via Florence, where he recorded Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina (1504–5; destr. c. 1515). In his engraving depicting The Climbers (1510; b. 487), he combined figures from Michelangelo’s large cartoon with a landscape from the engraving Muhammad and the Monk (1508; b. 126) by Lucas van Leyden. Settling in Rome, he engraved after drawings by artists there. His most important working relationship was with Raphael. Although their specific arrangement remains unclear, Raimondi frequently used working drawings of projects in progress in Raphael’s shop, which often reflect a conception that differs in certain respects from the finished painting. The engravers did not go to the site of an installed canvas or fresco to copy the model. Some images, such as the Judgement of Paris (c. 1517–20; b. 245startend), seem to have been made specifically to be engraved. This print is a highpoint of Raimondi’s mature style. He used a highly disciplined engraving technique to clarify three-dimensional form: masses of evenly spaced, curving parallels and dots create forms and shapes that abut each other, eliminating the need for contour line; paper also shows through, playing the role of light. After Raphael’s death (1520), Raimondi made engravings after Giulio Romano and Baccio Bandinelli. Gaoled in 1524 for engraving Giulio Romano’s erotic series I modi, he was released the next year but lost all his possessions during the Sack of Rome (1527). He is thought to have returned to Bologna.
Raimondi’s engraving style was adaptable and easy to learn. His workshop included a number of engravers who closely followed his style and copied his prints, including Marco Dente, Agostino dei Musi and the Master of the Die. Raimondi’s prints diffused the authoritative version of High Renaissance style throughout Europe. Through them not only Raphael’s but also his own manner became widely imitated. His great contribution was to make engraving the pre-eminent means of pictorial transmission.
Among the engravers under Raimondi’s influence who worked in Rome after the Sack was Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio, who made prints after designs of Raphael, Parmigianino and Rosso Fiorentino, producing vigorously engraved models of Mannerist style. Enea Vico produced over 500 engravings, applying Raimondi school techniques to Mannerist images, costume studies, portraits and title-pages. Giulio di Antonio Bonasone made hundreds of engravings after Raphael, Michelangelo and Parmigianino as well as after his own compositions. Martino Rota was active in Rome, Florence and Venice, and brought Raimondi’s technique north to Vienna, where he worked for the Imperial court. His very fine and orderly technique combined etching with engraving, as in his portrait of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1570s; b. 96). Raimondi’s controlled and delicate manner was continued by a group of Mantuans and north Italians in the circle of Giulio Romano. These were Giovanni Battista Scultori, his children Adamo Scultori and Diana Scultori, and Giorgio Ghisi. Diana Scultori worked in Mantua and Rome, where she engraved after her own designs and after paintings and stuccos by Giulio Romano and others. Her most important work, the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche (1575; b. 40), after Giulio Romano, is a long three-plate engraving representing sections of the Palazzo del Te fresco, engraved with perfect understanding of Raimondi’s technique half a century after its formulation.
Giorgio Ghisi refined Raimondi’s manner, adding more variety and delicacy, making it more tonal. His prints often have a granular, tactile, though never sensuous quality, the result of the extensive use of dots intermixed with hatching and diagonal lines that create lozenge crosshatching and concentric and curving parallels. His minutely spaced cuts function optically, filtering the light of the paper overlaid with plate tone, producing the perception of different tones of black. Primarily a reproductive engraver, he worked after designs by many artists, including Raphael, Giulio Romano, Luca Penni, Bronzino, Francesco Primaticcio and Michelangelo. His most important and complex image, executed with an engraving technique of ultimate richness, was the enigmatic Allegory of Life (1561; b. 67). He is significant as the personal conveyor of Raimondi’s reproductive engraving style to the most important publishing centres in the north.
(c) Lucas van Leyden
The most important body of work in the Netherlands was produced by Lucas van leyden, whose career overlapped Dürer’s and Raimondi’s; it included c. 180 engravings that reflect major technical and stylistic transformations throughout his career. His early engraving technique involved the use of minute strokes, producing an all-over lightness and delicacy that were quickly noted by Raimondi in Italy. Later van Leyden began to incorporate delicate crosshatching into his linear vocabulary. He was strongly influenced by prints of such northern engravers as Schongauer, and later by Dürer, whom he met. Van Leyden’s interest in the natural world is striking, and he was a gifted observer of figures and landscape. His portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (c. 1520; b. 172) was one of the first prints to combine preparatory line work in etching with engraving. By the 1530s his awareness of Raimondi was reflected in his shift to a more abstract linear system that stresses form rather than the nature of material and to Classical subject-matter and a thorough understanding of the nude. His late style is almost Mannerist in its conception of the figure.
Van Leyden’s engraving style formed the basis for Dirk Vellert’s work. A glass painter and dean of the painters’ guild of Antwerp, he made c. 21 fascinating prints, including mixed etchings and engravings, and woodcuts. These combine a late northern Gothic sense of line, light and penchant for detail with Italian Renaissance classical motifs, as in his St Luke Painting the Virgin (1526; b. 9). Vellert is unusual in that he often signed and dated his prints with the day, month and year.
By the end of the 16th century Haarlem and Amsterdam had become important centres for print publishing; many artists and intellectuals fled the southern Netherlands. The best-known Haarlem printmaker was hendrick Goltzius. He was trained in Xanten by the engraver, writer, political agitator, statesman and humanist Dirck Coornhert, who had worked for Hieronymous Cock. Goltzius followed his teacher to Haarlem and settled there in 1577. Many of his earliest engravings were religious and allegorical subjects after Coornhert, Joannes Stradanus and Maarten van Heemskerck, and they were published by Cock’s widow and by Philip Galle. While some of Goltzius’s early prints are delicate and descriptive, others are engraved in a bolder linear system in the style of Cornelis Cort. Goltzius mastered many engraving styles, employing linear languages appropriate to the images engraved.
Goltzius began publishing independently in Haarlem c. 1578, producing both original works and reproductions. He delicately engraved portraits that capture personality as well as the sheen of satin and intricacies of decoration. He also began to incorporate elegantly flourished, italic engraved calligraphy in his inscriptional spaces. Towards 1580 swelling, curving and serpentine line and lozenge crosshatching became more important in his work. He tempered Cort’s and Agostino Carracci’s abstract reproductive manner with extraordinary delicacy and a greater sense of light. His reproductive technique found its perfect vehicle in the late Mannerist style of Bartholomäus Spranger, whose anti-naturalistic, elongated figures, postures and gestures and implied eroticism became the basis for his mid-career engraving and drawing styles from c. 1585 to 1593. The Wedding of Cupid and Psyche (1587; b. 277beginend; after a wash drawing by Spranger), a remarkable tour de force, is Goltzius’s most important reproductive work in this style. The virtuosity of Spranger’s draughtsmanship in the musculature and billowing clouds is complemented by the curving, swelling lines of Goltzius’s engraving technique. Goltzius’s bravura series of Sprangeresque Roman Heroes (1586; b. 94–103) and his prints of contemporary military leaders and standard-bearers (mid-1580s) can be connected with the disintegrating political situation in the Netherlands. The monumental figure standing in close foreground against a deep landscape space filled with tiny figures in combat was to become a standard compositional formula for single-figure prints.
Goltzius achieved wide fame throughout Europe, and in 1590 he travelled incognito to Italy, where he studied and drew for about a year. His Italian experience is evident from new subject-matter in such prints as the numerous engravings by him and his students after Polidoro da Caravaggio’s frescoes. The inherent three-dimensionality of his engraving style gave a new impetus to the use of engraving to depict actual works of sculpture, for example his Farnese Hercules (c. 1592; b. 143) and Apollo Belvedere (c. 1592, dated 1617; b. 145). His experience in Italy is also apparent in the relaxing of his Sprangeresque style in favour of a greater naturalism.
In 1593–4 Goltzius engraved a series of six scenes from the Life of the Virgin (b. 15–20), known as the ‘Master Prints’, which he designed in the manner of various painters: Federico Barocci, Parmigianino, Jacopo Bassano, Raphael, Lucas van Leyden and Dürer. He used not only the imagery and style associated with each of these artists but also the appropriate manners of engraving, so effectively that his Circumcision (1594; b 18) in the manner of Dürer fooled his contemporaries into thinking it was an authentic, previously unknown work. Throughout the 1590s Goltzius worked in a variety of contemporary and historic styles of engraving. In his Passion (1596–8; b. 27–38) he drew on Lucas van Leyden’s Dürer-influenced style of the 1520s. Goltzius also engraved a number of magnificent portraits from life, such as Frederick de Vries (1597; b. 190), in which he combined different engraving techniques in a single plate. He had ceased engraving by 1600, probably because his eyesight had deteriorated, and turned to painting. His dazzling mastery of the various burin techniques set the direction and standards of excellence for the next generation.
Goltzius’s students and other engravers under his influence worked well into the next century. Jacob Matham, Jacques de Gheyn II, Jan Saenredam and Willem Swanenburgh produced important reproductive and original prints. The prints by Matham, Goltzius’s stepson, are characterized by a dryness and sculptural quality, with much use of crosshatching. Jacques de Gheyn II stressed colouristic effects and produced many works after Goltzius and Karel van Mander I. He also designed extraordinary original images that were engraved by himself and by Zacharias Dolendo and Andries Jacobsz Stock (b c. 1580; d after 1648).
Saenredam made engravings after Goltzius’s designs and also became a gifted interpreter of the drawings of the young Abraham Bloemaert. Saenredam’s original engravings include the Beached Whale at Beverwijck (1602; b 11) and the beautiful, nocturnal series the Wise and Foolish Virgins (1605; b. 2–6). Late Dutch Mannerist delight in artifice and virtuosity reached a highpoint in the works of the virtuoso engraver Jan Muller, a master of the swelling, serpentine line. He had an extraordinary ability to define three-dimensional form and was admired for his ability to engrave using no more than two intersecting lines in crosshatching. He engraved swelling, tapering, curving lines that intersect at angles and dot the lozenge interstices. His line system sometimes produced moiré patterns and optical vibrations; this system of engraving persisted in portrait and banknote engraving into the 20th century. In some of Muller’s works, however, such as the Adoration of the Magi (1598; b. 2), he suppressed optical effects in favour of a more delicate and descriptive technique, with long parallels, converging lines and dense, rich crosshatching, which create a dark nocturnal scene with dramatic lighting.
(e) Duvet and other French engravers
In France the goldsmith and engraver jean Duvet knew the work of Mantegna, Raimondi’s prints after Raphael, and Michelangelo. Dürer’s woodcut series Apocalypse (1496–8) inspired Duvet’s own visionary series (completed 1555). These dark images reflect his goldsmith’s delight in textures and details and are richly expressionistic and personal. Such compositions as St Michael and the Dragon (1546–55; b. 25) are completely packed in a wonderful, driving, hallucinatory chaos. From c. 1557 Etienne Delaune engraved delicate ornament prints and illustrations. His inventive designs contain slender, elongated figures. He is notable for using stipple to show dematerialized figures and landscapes. In Lyon, Jean Gourmont (i) engraved images of small figures in monumental, dark, arched interiors, using a technique that showed considerable knowledge of Marcantonio Raimondi. Georges Reverdy made prints influenced by both Gourmont and Duvet, with a similar compression of space and sense of anxiety. Most of the printmakers associated with the Fontainebleau school were primarily etchers, but Domenico del Barbiere’s engravings include striking original and reproductive images that are close to Raimondi’s school technique. Pierre Milan made reproductive engravings of Rosso Fiorentino’s images in a detached, mechanical, unsensuous style that shows considerable disparity between image and technique.
(ii) Commercial growth
During the 16th century engraving became an important international cultural and commercial activity. As engravings and engravers began to circulate, prints became the primary agent of the transmission and interchange of image, style and graphic technique. In Italy by the middle of the century print publishing was well established in Rome with the publishers Antoine Lafréry, Tommaso Barlacchi ( fl 1540–50), Antonio Salamanca, Nicholas van Aelst (b 1526; d after 1612) and Philippe Thomassin. In addition to reproductive prints, they produced views of Classical ruins and Roman churches, maps and illustrated guidebooks. Engravings began to be used for book illustrations, with the engraved title-pages first appearing in Venice c. 1518 and every year from 1548. Despite the need for passing a sheet through two different presses, one for the text in relief and the other for the intaglio image, engraving gradually replaced the woodcut for book illustration. Engraving was capable of producing more impressions and was favoured for its greater ability to represent three-dimensional form, details and tone. The development of engraving technique was greatly affected by the expansion of the commerce in prints. Publishers needed plates that could withstand large print runs or could be easily reworked. This favoured the use of Raimondi’s regularly spaced line systems and impersonal styles.
The engraver and etcher Hieronymus Cock of Antwerp went to Italy in the 1540s. In Rome he made drawings of Classical ruins and probably met Giorgio Ghisi whom he invited to work for him. He began his publishing business Aux Quatre Vents c. 1548 in Antwerp and gradually turned from engraving to running it, with the height of its activity between 1555 and 1565. It was a melting-pot in which his international staff of engravers and etchers made prints in different styles for a varied and far-flung market. Northern European engravers by mid-century were trained in the artist-engraver tradition of Dürer and Lucas van Leyden with its original images and personal repertories of strokes, rich texture and tone and an emphasis on description; they were, however, also exposed to a more abstract linear system that emphasized form, through the primarily reproductive prints coming from Italy and through Ghisi. The result was a cross-fertilization, with the Italian system becoming more delicate and varied, the northern more regularized.
Unlike publications from many engraving shops, those of Hieronymus Cock were characterized by variety rather than uniformity of style. Cock’s chief engravers included Cornelis Bos, the brothers Jan and Lucas van Doetechum, Pieter van der Heyden, Dirck Volkertsz. Coornhert, Cornelis Cort and Philip Galle, each working in an individual manner. Contemporary Dutch and Flemish artists provided designs, and Joannes Stradanus sent drawings from Florence. His prints after Frans Floris and Maarten van Heemskerck document the changes taking place in Netherlandish art as it was totally transformed by Italian Renaissance and Mannerist influences. Cock’s publications after Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel I were important for the future development of Dutch art. Landscape was an important element in prints from his circle, and the rise of independent landscape painting in Dutch and Flemish art owed much to these works. The works that his engravers produced included single images and cycles from the Bible and Lives of the Saints, allegories, Classical and mythological subjects, portraits, architectural views, maps, ornament and reproductions of Italian paintings. These prints were often issued with inscriptions in two or more languages. Prints from Aux Quatre Vents were sent as far as South America and were found in the Nova Zemblaya shipwreck off the northern coast of Russia, bound for Japan.
Antwerp became the most important centre for map and topographical engraving, in association with the work of Gerard Mercator (1512–94) and Abraham Ortelius. Christoph Plantin’s publishing house, the Golden Compasses, printed engraved maps, title-pages and book illustrations. Map engraving’s allied speciality of lettering engraving enabled the first engraved calligraphy manual, Esercitatio alphabetica, after the work of the scriptor Clement Perret and engraved by Cornelis de Hooghe, to be issued by Plantin in 1569. Antwerp was also the home of Jan Wierix, Jerome Wierix and Anton Wierix II. These engravers massed tiny, delicate strokes so that the eye perceives silvery tones capable of infinite nuances of light, colour and texture. Their workshop production of over 2000 engravings included portraits, reproductions of paintings, copies of older prints and many small devotional images of their own design that found their way around the world under the auspices of the Jesuit Order. One of these was the model for one of the earliest copperplate engravings made in Japan in 1597 by a Jesuit near Nagasaki.
Throughout Europe family workshops produced thousands of engravings for local and international trade. Crispijn van de Passe (i) founded a dynasty that was active well into the next century in Utrecht, Cologne, London and Paris. Flemish engravers travelled and worked throughout Europe, spreading various Antwerp engraving styles to England, France and Germany. Members of the engraving dynasty including Raphael Sadeler I worked in Munich, and his nephew Aegidius Sadeler II was active in Prague and engraved after Spranger.
Dutch and Flemish engravers were the first to be active in England, where the earliest engravings were published in the 1540s. Early engraving commerce centred on the production of maps, topographic illustration and portraits of Elizabeth I and the nobility. Theodore de Bry engraved John White’s drawings of the expedition of Sir Walter Raleigh to Virginia, 1585–6. William Rodgers (i) was the first important native English engraver. His images of Elizabeth I combine a goldsmith’s love of ornament with Christian iconic conventions, realistic portraiture, Flemish landscape, classical victory iconography and Mannerist strapwork. His engraving technique recalls Cock’s atonal linear work of a generation earlier, and his prints do not reflect any of the major changes that had taken place in engraving style by his time.
Many of the engravers who passed through Cock’s shop went on to have independent careers. Cornelis Cort left c. 1560 for Italy, where he worked for Titian for several years. Titian favoured his colouristic northern burin style, which more closely approximated to the qualities of Venetian painting, over the flatter Roman engraving. Under Titian, Cort developed a new manner of using the burin, cutting lines that swell and taper: intersecting groups of swelling, curving parallels meet to form lozenge crosshatching, setting up moiré patterns that catch light and also produce optical vibrations that stimulate a near-perception of colour. Outline became redundant, since form and light created contour. Cort’s new technique was the result of blending Italian systematization with a northern sensibility, capturing the black-and-white equivalent of colour and light in an abstract, all-purpose system. It opened new possibilities for reproduction of paintings but required a higher level of skill on the part of the engraver in calibrating the spacing, and controlling the curvature and swell of the line. The virtuosity of an engraver therefore became a crucial factor, and the linear language of the medium headed in a new direction.
In Rome Cort’s style influenced Francesco Villamena. Villamena learnt to engrave parallel lines that flow over a form like a contour map, for this new swelling line gave engravers the ability to model form, imply contour and modulate tone without resorting to outline and crosshatching. Villamena engraved many images of beggars, introducing to printmaking a new subject, which was taken up in the 17th century by many etchers. Agostino Carracci, the foremost follower of Cort in Italy, adopted Cort’s swelling, curving burin technique in Bologna c. 1578. He purged it of its northern and Venetian colourism, contrast and texture by opening up the spacing between lines and intersections, letting more paper show. Carracci is credited with over 200 engravings, including reproductive prints, portraits, coats of arms and ornament. Annibale Carracci began to etch c. 1590. Etching offered a greater freedom in drawing and softer atmospheric effects than engraving, but he successfully combined both techniques to achieve a looser, more painterly engraving style. Agostino Carracci followed his lead, and his later engravings also combine etching.
4. c 1600–c 1750.
(i) Callot, Bosse and the status of engraving
Although jacques Callot of Nancy is best known as an etcher, he was first trained as an engraver. Callot’s understanding of engraving greatly affected his practice of etching. Even after he took up etching, he continued to work with the linear systems of Mannerist engraving, rather than in the freer drawing style possible in etching. The two major technical contributions to etching with which Callot is traditionally credited, the échoppe and reliable hard ground, were the result of his attempts to make etching more like engraving. Callot’s most important follower, Abraham Bosse, the author of the Traicte des manieres de graver en taille douce (Paris, 1645), the first truly useful printmaking shop manual, stated that ‘The etcher’s chief aim is to counterfeit engraving’.
Encouragement of the arts in general by Louis XIV, King of France, stimulated the demand for more engravings. The commerce of prints, by then centred in Paris, led to the amassing of the first great collections, such as that of Michel de Marolles with over 123,400 prints. The King’s purchase in 1660 of Marolles’s collection became the nucleus of the Calcographie du Louvre. Important print dealers and publishers such as the Mariette family began the documentation of prints, which laid the foundations for the first catalogues and print histories of the 18th century. Engravers were admitted to the Académie in 1655.
(ii) Engraved lettering and cartography
During the early 17th century a remarkable flourishing of calligraphy existed in the Netherlands, and Amsterdam and Haarlem continued to be important centres for the specialized skill of engraved lettering. Jodocus Hondius I, Cornelis Boissens (1567–1635), Gerard Gauw (c. 1580–1638) and Simon Frisius engraved writing-books after their own and other scriptors’ exemplars, including those of the great calligrapher Jan van den Velde II. Cartography was another Dutch speciality, with vast wall maps, globes and celestial spheres, bound maps and navigational charts by engravers and publishers such as Jodocus Hondius and Hendrik Hondius ‘II’, Pieter van den Keere (b 1570/71; d after 1645) and Willem Jansz. Blaeu ( fl 1571; d 1638).
(iii) Reproductive engraving
Pictorial developments in early Baroque painting began to have an impact on Mannerist engraving from c. 1600. Renewed naturalism in art produced interest in the problem of the representation of specific time and light conditions, such as the nocturnal and candle-lit scenes of Caravaggio in Italy and his northern European followers. Engravers attempted to translate such effects into graphic terms, but the glittering Mannerist linear systems were not adequate for the expression of the darkest tonalities. The nocturnal paintings of Adam Elsheimer, active in Rome, were transmitted to the north through the influential reproductive engravings of Hendrik Goudt, a Dutch engraver working in Rome and Utrecht. He developed an engraving style that involved the building-up of deep blacks through countless minutely crosshatched and parallel lines. In his nocturnal Flight into Egypt (1613; Hollstein, no. 3) after Elsheimer, he achieved the effects of fire, starlight and moonlight reflected in water. He also incorporated beautiful engraved calligraphic inscriptions in the lower margins of his prints. In the 1620s Jan van de Velde II began to engrave in Goudt’s manner, increasing the contrast between dramatic lighting and velvety blackness. Also in the 1620s Magdalena van de Passe in Utrecht engraved in a very dark manner after Jan Pynas under the influence of Elsheimer.
In Antwerp the brothers Boetius Bolswert and Schelte Bolswert engraved in a style that blended a traditional northern delicacy and emphasis on drawing, details and light with current reproductive technique. Schelte produced many engravings after Rubens as well as after such 16th-century artists as David Vinckboons. Rubens designed hundreds of images to be engraved, including title-pages for books published by Christoph Plantin’s press. Rubens employed and closely trained or retrained engravers to reproduce his designs, including Pieter Soutman, Cornelis Galle (i), Willem (Isaacsz.) van Swanenburgh (d 1612) and Lucas Vorsterman (i). The difference between the Dutch engravers who continued to follow Goltzius and the engravers of the Rubens school is that, although both groups used linear systems, the Antwerp engravers had less interest in engraving that primarily displayed the engraver’s virtuosity. The painting or drawing to be reproduced was the paramount reason for the engraving, and Rubens’s close involvement is evident in these prints. Rubens’s engravers concentrated on translating the effects of light and colour into the black-and-white graphic language of line. Lucas Vorsterman, who was originally trained by Goltzius, used delicate strokes organized in groups of curving and concentric parallels and short dotted lines that disintegrate into areas of white highlights. He laid straight lines over curved ones to create crosshatched reticulations. Vorsterman eventually left Rubens’s studio and went to England, where from 1624 to 1630 he engraved after van Dyck. Vorsterman’s student Paulus Pontius continued to work for Rubens. Both Vorsterman and Pontius collaborated with van Dyck on his Iconography (c. 1632–44), a series of portraits of his contemporaries etched in a free drawing style in the preliminary states and then formally finished in engraving by Vorsterman, Pontius, the Bolswerts and Pieter de Jode (ii), among others.
Compositions by Raphael and the Bolognese Baroque painters Annibale Carracci, Domenichino and Guido Reni were important subjects for reproductive engraving. French reproductive engravers became more experimental in their use of mixed techniques and sought alternatives to the standard formulas of line-engraving. Underdrawing in etching prior to engraving allowed engravers to move away from rigid geometric linear reticulations towards a more fluid and intuitive drawing style. The burin added a crisp black in contrast to the corroded etched line. Girard Audran prepared his plates by underdrawing in etching and did not hide the etched line but exploited its variety in combination with the crisp engraved line. Much of his work was after paintings by Simon Vouet and Charles Lebrun. Towards 1700 mixed engraving and etching was used by Audran’s descendants and other engravers for the reproduction of Watteau’s paintings and drawings. Nicolas-Henry Tardieu and Charles-Nicolas Cochin I dominated engraving in Paris in the 1720s and 1730s. They perfected the combination of etching and engraving, using the échoppe to simulate engraving in the underdrawing but engraving with the openness and freedom possible in etching. Cochin’s Village Bride (1729; see 1984 exh. cat., no. 14) and Tardieu’s Embarkation for Cythera (1733; see 1984 exh. cat., nos 15a and 15b), both after Watteau, represent a new, more spontaneous and less mechanical approach to reproductive engraving.
Great experimentation took place in France in the 18th century. New tools and techniques for reproductive printmaking were developed. The collecting of drawings and watercolours stimulated a market for new types of prints. The old line systems that had served to translate painting were inadequate to replicate chalk, pastel and wash. Stipple tools, roulettes and mattoirs were used in combination with engraved line and etching in a new direct technique known as Crayon manner. Gilles Demarteau excelled in imitating the chalk drawings of François Boucher and printed his plates in red and brown inks. Multiple-plate colour printing simulating pastel was perfected by Louis-Marin Bonnet, working after Boucher and other contemporary painters. The Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, edited by Denis Diderot and Jean d’Alembert (Paris, 1751–72), contained detailed articles written by engravers on both the history and techniques of engraving. The illustrations included the latest tools and methods and are important documents of 18th-century printmaking startend.
In England the prolific and innovative engraver william Hogarth conceived of prints as having a didactic and moral function. Due to the success of his images, his work was pirated, and one of his major contributions to engraving was his soliciting Parliament to pass an Act in 1735 protecting artists’ publication rights for 14 years. In original narrative dramatic series such as A Harlot’s Progress (pubd 1732) and A Rake’s Progress (1735), Hogarth combined underdrawing in etching with engraving. His prints were the means to disseminate morally improving subject-matter to the public, and his engraving style did not call attention to technique, although he incorporated many types of cuts, including swelling parallels, delicate stipple and gridlike crosshatching. As his success grew, he employed others to engrave after his designs. The French engravers Gérard Scotin II, Simon François Ravenet I (1706–74) and Bernard Baron executed the plates for his Marriage à la mode (1745), which are among the most delicate in technique and brilliant in tonal contrasts of Hogarth’s prints.
(iv) Portrait engraving
Throughout Europe portrait engraving became a characteristic speciality of 17th-century engraving. Ottavio Leoni, active in Rome, was the first engraver to specialize in portrait engraving. He drew his sitters in chalk and engraved these designs on to tiny copper plates using a stipple technique of dots and flecks along with longer lines, maintaining the quality of chalk on rough paper. His engravings have a naturalness, immediacy and freedom that set them apart from those by his contemporaries, and the subjects look out of oval and octagonal frames. In France during the late 16th century and early 17th portrait engravers worked in the very delicate manner of the Wierixes. The Flemish engraver Thomas de Leu produced hundreds of small portraits, as did the very prolific Léonard Gaultier. In Paris, Claude Mellan combined the portrait form with a personal style, which brought the systematization of engraved line to its ultimate development. He had worked in Rome from c. 1624 to 1636, where he mastered Francesco Villamena’s manner of defining form with swelling parallels and concentric lines, completely eliminating crosshatching. He opened up Villamena’s spacing, letting more white paper show through. In Mellan’s work the calibration of thickness of line and spacing determines the illusion of form. His incredible virtuosity is demonstrated in the face of Christ in the Sudarium (1649), which is engraved with one spiralling, varying line that begins at the tip of the nose. His unique engraving style was taken up by Johann Jakob Thourneysser I (1636–1718) in Basle. Mellan was responsible for bringing Leoni’s manner of portrait engraving to France, where it was developed in a more naturalistic manner by Jean Morin; his prints show the influence of van Dyck’s method of beginning a plate with a freely sketched, etched underdrawing before engraving.
Robert Nanteuil, one of the greatest French portrait engravers, was not only a superb engraver but also had the artistry to penetrate the character of his subjects, depicted as if in a framed ‘living’ painting. In his prints the space between the oval frame of the portrait and the print’s outer edge was characteristically filled in with evenly ruled horizontal light lines that read as a middle grey, representing a wall on which the frame casts a shadow. This device creates the transition from the two-dimensional space of the paper to the three-dimensional illusion of the portrait itself. Lettering appears in an inscriptional space either on the frame or in the traditional space below, which is sometimes drawn to simulate a plinth. Nanteuil used different types of line work to distinguish between the border areas and the portrait space. The portrait is engraved with delicate parallel, flowing, swelling lines and crosshatching, which produce rich tonal areas from dark blacks to pure white. Contour is suppressed, and the image is defined through light and texture. In 1658 he was appointed Dessinateur et Graveur Ordinaire du Roi to Louis XIV, who in 1660 passed an edict raising engraving from an ‘industrial art’ to a ‘liberal art’. Nanteuil produced over 200 engravings of members of the court, including 11 of the King. The engraved portrait became a status symbol in mid-17th century France, as the aristocracy, clergy and other public figures had themselves depicted, but only towards the end of the century did the middle class appear in copperplate portraits.
Portrait engraving was also important in the Netherlands. Goltzius’s followers, such as Jan Muller, had engraved important portraits of royalty. As portrait painting became popular in the 17th-century Netherlands, luminaries of the Dutch Republic were recorded by painters such as Michiel van Mierevelt and engraved by Willem Delff. Cornelis van Dalem I and Abraham Blooteling were active in the middle of the century. Blooteling became involved in the search for new ways to engrave dark tone and was one of the first engravers to use a mezzotint rocker and scraper.
Many of the Flemish engravers who were established in Paris in the late 17th century show the influence of the Rubens school, and their engraving was dedicated to capturing effects of light, atmosphere, texture, wide tonal range and colour. For them, the highest achievement of the engraver lay in the total dedication of means to the painterly image reproduced. Such displays of engraving ability as Mellan’s, whose line functions on two levels, are antithetical to this style. The Flemish portrait engraver Gérard Edelinck expanded portraiture’s standard compositional formulae to include standing and seated figures in Baroque settings. He massed lines together densely to create deep shadows, enlivened by brilliant highlights. Many of his portraits are after paintings by Hyacinthe Rigaud. Pierre Drevet (1663–1738) also worked after Rigaud and excelled in capturing movement and the effect of flickering light on such textures as velvet, silk and fur. His son Pierre-Imbert Drevet (1697–1739) surpassed him in the rendering of textures and light effects on luxurious materials, as in his masterpiece, the portrait of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1773; see 1984 exh. cat., no. 8).
In England, William Faithorne engraved portraits in Mellan’s style of parallel, uncrossed lines. In Paris c. 1649 he came under the influence of Nanteuil, in whose complex manner he later engraved. Faithorne’s work spans the period from Charles I to the Restoration (1625–60). In 1662 he published The Art of Graveing and Etching (London), based on Bosse’s Traité.
Copperplate-engraving was introduced in the Americas by the Spanish, and one of the earliest American prints known, the Catafalque of Philip IV in the Cathedral, was published in Mexico in the Llanto del occidente (Mexico City, 1666) by Isidro Sariñana (1630–96). In the late 17th century a flourishing publishing industry was turning out hundreds of books illustrated with copperplate-engravings. In the New England colonies the first known engraving, a portrait of Increase Mather (1701; Stauffer, no. 982) was made by Thomas Emmes and was copied from an earlier English engraving.
5. c 1750–c 1900.
(i) Pure and mixed reproductive engraving
Mixed techniques became popular in Paris and London, but pure line engraving continued to be practised by Charles Dupuis (1685–1742) and Nicholas-Gabriel Dupuis. In France engraving enjoyed official patronage, and many foreign engravers were attracted there. Georg Friedrich Schmidt (1712–75), who later worked in Berlin, and Jean-Georges Wille were among the most masterful burin-engravers of the 18th century. Wille’s disciplined technique involved the use of regularly spaced crosshatching filled with dots and flecks, and alternating dark and light lines.
In Britain printmaking was held in lower esteem than in France. British engravers were excluded from full membership in the Royal Academy on the grounds that engraving was completely devoid of the ‘intellectual qualities of invention and composition’. Engraving gained prominence, however, through the important genre of landscape. The leading landscape engravers were Francis Vivares and William Woollett, both of whom worked in mixed etching and engraving. Woollett’s distinctive method consisted of several etched bitings of preliminary wormlike lines, after which lines were cut with the burin. His dramatic landscape print Destruction of the Children of Niobe (1761; see 1980 exh. cat., no. 36) after Richard Wilson was commissioned by the publisher John Boydell, for whom it achieved great success as an export item to France. Woollett later turned to engraving history paintings. He was sought after by painters who wanted him to help make their reputations through his reproductions, for example his engraving after Benjamin West’s Death of Wolfe (1776; see 1983 exh. cat., no. 10). John Boydell was the most important English publisher at that time, and his many projects included the famous Shakespeare Gallery, a group of paintings of Shakespearean subjects. His intention was to make a profit from the sale of portfolios of engravings after these paintings, but they were not commercially successful.
Robert Strange, one of Britain’s greatest reproductive engravers after the Old Masters, had an international career in Edinburgh, Paris, London and Italy, where his technique was particularly influential. His method involved etching and then re-engraving the lines with a burin, achieving a controlled softness and light. Although most of his works were engraved after masterpieces of the Renaissance and Baroque, such as works by Raphael, Guercino and Guido Reni, his Apotheosis of the Princes Octavius and Alfred (1786; see 1980 exh. cat., no. 62), after Benjamin West, was an important engraving in the new Neo-classical style. His rigorous and delicate, silvery engraving style, capable of expressing nuances of light, was to prove well suited to the formal concerns of Neo-classical style. William Sharp also worked after Benjamin West, as well as van Dyck, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Lawrence and John Singleton Copley.
These new and large history prints, with their intricate networks of under-etching, engraved lines, dots and lozenge crosshatching, took many years to complete; for example, James Heath took over 11 years to engrave Copley’s Death of Major Peirson (1796). In North America engraving was still at an unsophisticated level, but engraved prints helped propagate revolutionary consciousness and popularized the iconography of federalism. Copley’s contemporary, the silversmith and patriot Paul Revere, engraved a print of the Boston Massacre (1770; Stauffer, no. 2675), which sought to spread outrage. After the Revolution (1775–83), engravers helped promote the ideals of the young republic through Neo-classical images and iconic portraits of George Washington (1732–99).
In Italy leading mid-18th-century reproductive engravers were Andrea Zucchi (?1675–1740), Anton Maria Zanetti (i) and Joseph Wagner (1706–80) in Venice, Giovanni Volpato in Rome and the Remondini workshop in Bassano. Joseph Wagner’s student Francesco Bartolozzi settled in Britain in 1764, where he specialized in stipple engraving and engraved after decorative Rococo and Neo-classical themes by Giovanni Battista Cipriani (for illustration see Bartolozzi, francesco) and Angelica Kauffman. He also worked in pure line, as in his Holy Family among the Ruins (1789), after Nicolas Poussin. Volpato’s student and son-in-law Raphael Morghen was perhaps Italy’s greatest reproductive engraver. His engravings after Old Masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Nicolas Poussin, have an extraordinary control and delicacy of technique, with an even texture and silvery grey tonality. Morghen taught at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, and his prints came to the attention of Napoleon, who attempted to lure him to France to establish an academy of engraving.
(ii) Historical revival and William Blake
A historical print revival parallel to the Gothic Revival took place from c. 1800 in Britain, Germany and Italy, centred in Venice and Rome. A renewed interest in 15th- and early 16th-century prints resulted in the stylistic influence of artists from Dürer to Michelangelo affecting Romantic and Neo-classical art. At the same time many imitations and forgeries of 15th-century prints and niellos were made. Engraving enjoyed a brief association with Romanticism and original printmaking through the works of two visionary artists, James Barry and William Blake. James Barry is a unique figure in British printmaking for the scale, conception and execution of his original prints. His etchings of the 1770s and 1790s are deeply bitten and reinforced with burin work, and they evoke the sublime through a mystical romantic and heroic classical vision. william Blake, probably the most important engraver of the 19th century, transformed engraving into an original medium once again. He brought back pure line’s function as drawing, re-orientating engraving with a direction that had been abandoned since the 16th century. He was apprenticed (1771–8) as a reproductive engraver with James Basire I (1730–1802), for whom he drew and engraved Gothic monuments for Sepulchral Monuments in Great Britain (London, 1786) by Richard Gough. Blake’s experience with antiquarianism was formative, and the 16th-century prints he collected helped shape his vision and technique. The young Blake knew early 16th-century engravings and was much influenced by Michelangelo. He mastered conventional reproductive technique, including the use of etched worm-line backgrounds combined with burin work. Although he made his living etching and engraving after the designs of others, he also made prints after his own visionary and mystical designs. His personal engraving style is characterized by a rich tonal range built up of long strokes of varying weights that emphasize flowing form and contour, with the occasional use of minute lozenge crosshatching. Glad Day (1780; Binyon, no. 9) was the first of his prints to incorporate pure line drawing as independent contour against blank paper, creating a radiant and joyous figure. In 1810 he asserted that ‘Engraving is drawing on Copper and Nothing Else.’
After spending many years experimenting with relief and colour printing, the ageing William Blake took up engraving again in 1818, inspired, he said, by ‘Albrecht Dürer and the old Engravers’. John Linnell (ii) commissioned his major work in engraving, the 21 illustrations to the Book of Job (1825; Binyon, nos 105–26), including When the Morning Stars Sang Together startend. These illustrations are richly worked images set in sketchy drypoint linear borders, and their unorthodox, ‘unfinished’ format departs radically from contemporary practice. Blake went further with his use of the burin in seven unfinished engravings after his designs for Dante’s Inferno (1826; Binyon, nos 127–33). His work failed to have wide influence, but he was followed by a small group of younger artists who worked in a variety of print techniques. Two engravers were Edward Calvert, who made dark images inspired by Blake’s wood-engravings for The Pastorals of Virgil (London, 1821) of the physician Robert John Thornton (1768–1837) and by early Italian prints; and George Richmond, who made a few silvery engravings in which figure types and long burin cuts are reminiscent of the 16th-century Venetian Jacopo de’ Barbari.
(iii) Steel engraving
In the 1820s and 1830s the growing market for reproductive prints demanded increased speed and cheapness of production and promoted the invention of hundreds of new printing processes. Engraving and etching were challenged by the new, wide acceptance of Lithography, which could be autographic or reproductive and which could resemble pen, wash or crayon drawings or imitate engravings. Traditional engravers justified their laborious production on grounds of the sheer beauty of the engraved line, but they also began to use such time-saving devices as mechanical ruling combs. Around 1822 Thomas Goff Lupton introduced the steel plate, which was capable of printing an effectively unlimited edition of 20,000–30,000 impressions. The use of steel plates also affected engraving style and size of the image. The hardness permitted the cutting of thousands of tiny, closely laid lines that read as pale greys, their delicacy most effective in small prints. Hundreds of British steel engravers produced reproductions for fashionable annual albums of paintings. The steel printing plate also enabled the more rapid and tonally rich mezzotint to yield huge editions of large-scale works. By 1830 the painterly Mezzotint became a commercially viable and fashionable competitor of line-engraving.
Small-scale steel engraving was particularly suited to the reproduction of watercolour. J. M. W. Turner, who also etched preliminary original designs to be finished in mezzotint, closely directed an entire industry of reproductive engraving after his watercolours and paintings. ‘Turner engravings’ were actually etched landscapes with mechanically ruled engraved skies, which captured the most subtle tones and washes with a glossy sameness of finish. Many of these were printed on chiné collé, a receptive and luminous delicate tissue backed with a stronger sheet of paper. The large number of Turner’s engravers included James Basire II (1769–1822), Robert Brandard (1805–62), William Bernard Cooke (1778–1855), John Cousen, William Miller (1796–1882), John Pye, Charles Turner (1774–1857) and James Tibbetts Willmore (1800–1863).
Victorian engraving was the ultimate development of printmaking technique, in which both the painter’s and engraver’s personalities were subsumed by the technique. Pure engravers considered the rigorousness of their medium particularly suited to elevated subjects and heroic themes. Pure line-engravers such as James Henry Watt (1799–1867) continued to work for up to eight years on a single copper plate, such as his Christ Blessing the Little Children (1855; see 1973 exh. cat., no. 1) after Charles Lock Eastlake. Such ‘noble’ subjects as the classical nude became a speciality of line-engraving, such as George Thomas Doo’s engraving after William Etty’s Combat—Woman Pleading for the Vanquished: An Ideal Group (1848; see 1973 exh. cat., no. 11).
(iv) Engraving and the Etching Revival
In addition to the growth of lithography during the first half of the 19th century, etching was revived in the mid-19th century. These new printmakers made original works, not surrogates for paintings, and their use of the various media was often highly experimental in contrast to the traditional craftsmanship of professional engravers. French printers working with artists of the Etching Revival developed the process of steel-facing copperplates, which enabled fragile drypoints, as well as etchings and aquatints, to be printed in large editions, making possible the publication of original prints on a large commercial scale. The attitude of the artists of the Etching Revival towards burin-engraving was wittily expressed by the French artist Félix Buhot, who occasionally combined burin work with his etching, drypoint, roulette and aquatint. His etched frontispiece for L’Illustration nouvelle (Paris, 1877), the Burial of the Burin (Lavan and Adhémar, no. 88), depicted the demise of engraving as a burin being carried up to heaven by putti. Wiliam Strang, a Scottish printmaker of the Etching Revival, worked with mixed intaglio techniques. He invented a new type of burin that was turned back at the end, allowing the engraver to pull the tool with almost the freedom of the etching needle, yet maintain the line quality possible in engraving.
(v) Decline of reproductive engraving
Pure engraving was gradually replaced by mixed techniques, mezzotint and ultimately photogravure, which permitted rapid and accurate reproduction of art works even though it lacked beauty of surface. At the end of the 19th century British engravers were reduced to ruling engraved skies on etched plates, due to lack of other work. One branch of burin-engraving that remained viable was the Bookplate, associated with silversmithing and heraldic tradition, of which Charles William Sherborn (1831–1912) was one of the leading practitioners. Line-engravers also found employment for their swelling line and dot techniques in the new field of banknote, certificate and postage-stamp engraving, in which reproductive line-engraving style remains fossilized in the late 20th century. Security watermarks and engraving machines that generated geometric swirls were invented to discourage counterfeiting, leaving only the portraits, scenes and lettering for the banknote engraver to execute by hand. A method was devised for multiplying the original copper plates, which wore down quickly, by taking an impression on soft steel that in turn was impressed into other plates and hardened.
In France burin-engraving remained significant into the 20th century, due to official support by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Chalcographie du Louvre. Claude Ferdinand Galliard (1834–87), Alphonse François (1811–88) and Jules Jacquet (1841–1913) were among the leading reproductive engravers of the late 19th century. Also in France steel-engraving had prompted a change in taste away from the rich and colouristic engraving style produced by deep and broad cutting to one that was simpler and more highly finished in its range of greys. In Berlin an engraver associated with the Nazarenes was Friedrich-Edward Eichens (1804–77). Also in Berlin, Karl Stauffer-Bern engraved so delicately that his lines appear to dissolve into tone. Others, such as Friedrich Zimmermann (1826–87) of Dresden and Joseph Kohlschein (1841–1915) of Düsseldorf, continued to use a broader style for their reproductive works. A number of artists combined burin work with etching in original prints, such as Max Klinger in his series Brahms Fantasy (1894; Varnedoe and Streicher, nos 66–70). In Italy a few line-engravers continued to work, but there, as everywhere but France, by the first decade of the 20th century reproductive line-engraving had virtually disappeared.
6. c 1900 and after.
(i) Modernism and Cubism
Despite the burin’s capacity to incise the most elegant and flowing of lines, its association with the mechanical drudgery of engraving tonal equivalents meant that artists did not consider it a tool for creative use. Artists favoured other techniques for reflecting the flowing linearity characteristic of European art c. 1900. The idea that an engraving could be an original print returned under the auspices of Cubism, with its geometric rather than organic line quality. Picasso’s early prints were etchings and drypoints, but in such later Cubist prints as Man with Guitar (1915; see 1981 exh. cat., no. 28) he used the burin to rework an etched image in a completely novel way; he exploited the rich blackness of the engraved line, showing its crisp directionality, graceful arcs, sharpness and burr. To this he added heavy plate-tone and spot wiping to achieve a new context for the engraved line. Throughout his career Picasso enjoyed and used aspects of engraving that had never been admitted before, such as the resistance of the metal. He often worked with an unsharpened tool, which stuttered its way through the copper, kicking up sharp burr. He also deliberately signed and dated his plates, so that his script prints in reverse.
The Cubist Emile Laboureur (1877–1943) experimented with a variety of etching techniques before taking up the portable technique of engraving during his war service (1914–16). He engraved his distinctive stylized images using crisp lines and arcs against white paper, which were interspersed with hatching that flattens and patterns rather than modelling form. Paul Dubreuil also worked in a manner reminiscent of Laboureur’s style. John Marin, one of the few American artists influenced by Cubism who engraved, made six prints using the burin in the 1920s. The Polish artist Joseph Hecht (1891–1952) studied in Kraków and in Norway before moving to Paris in 1921. Along with other Polish engravers, he incorporated elements of folk art and decorative patterning in his manner of drawing animals and landscapes with the burin. Despite his traditional craft training as a professional engraver, he came to see the engraved line as interesting in itself apart from what it described and was interested in how it functioned with white paper. His approach to engraving was profoundly to influence printmaking.
(ii) Historical revival
In Britain engravers approached engraving in a very different manner from the modernists, sustaining a connection with the past through a high level of craftsmanship, a sense of historicism and preservation of the print’s intimate scale. Robert Sargent Austin (1895–1973), the leading British engraver in the 1920s, emulated Dürer’s early style with great delicacy and rigorous drawing. Many of the British engravers active in the 1920s and 1930s were associated with the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (which admitted engravers only in 1926) and with the Bank of England. They included Stanley Anderson (1881–1966), Henry John Fanshawe Badeley (b 1874), Enid Butcher ( fl c. 1930), Stephen Gooden (1892–1955), William Morgan (b 1903) and Harry Morley (1881–1945). David Jones engraved copperplate illustrations for private press books using a very open, elegant, wiry line.
During the 1930s, while many American artists were making lithographs, the American scene-painter and etcher Reginald Marsh learnt to engrave in a formal style by taking private lessons from a retired banknote engraver. By 1939 he was making pure engravings that startlingly combined his Realist drawing style with the lozenge crosshatching of banknote engraving. Armin Landeck (1905–84) was another printmaker who found engraving well suited to his expressive architectural imagery, drawn with closely massed parallels and spider-web line networks.
(iii) S. W. Hayter, abstraction and experimentation
Under the influence of Surrealism and Automatism, S. W. Hayter, who had studied engraving with Joseph Hecht in Paris (1926), liberated line from literal pictorial description. He created abstract, non-objective images through the constant turning of the plate as the burin passed through the copper. He engraved over passages of textured soft ground startend, combined engraving with lift-ground etching and gouged out areas (gauffrage) that print as uninked three-dimensional relief. He introduced the idea of surface and intaglio printing from the same plate, perfected colour viscosity printing and took casts of engravings in plaster.
In 1927 Hayter founded Atelier 17 (Paris, 1927–40; New York, 1945–50; Paris, 1950–) as a workshop for experimental intaglio printmaking. Hundreds of artists who worked at Atelier 17 tried engraving but most found the medium too disciplined and indirect. Engravers there included John Buckland-Wright (1897–1954), Dorothy Dehner (b 1901), Gabor Peterdi (b 1915), Sue Fuller (b 1914), André Racz (b 1916), Ian Hugo (1900–1984) and Mauricio Lasansky. Hayter’s personal engraving style, based on improvisation and chance, influenced Jackson Pollock, who made seven engravings with Hayter in 1944–5. Hayter’s experimental approach and his bringing together intaglio printmaking and abstraction were major influences on European and American printmaking in the 1940s and 1950s.
Affected by the large scale of Abstract Expressionist paintings, printmakers expanded the scale of their works. This encouraged changes in burin technique, such as the use of powerful, deeply cut, expressive, long, sweeping strokes and violent jabs. The virtuosity, control and strength required to cut such lines is, in some ways, reminiscent of Mannerist engraving.
The practice of engraving in the USA after World War II was due largely to Hayter. Many of the artists who worked with him set up their own printmaking workshops in art schools and universities, such as Gabor Peterdi at Yale University, New Haven, CT. Mauricio Lasansky made large, mixed intaglio colour prints containing powerful passages of engraving, and his grotesque, mythic, apocalyptic and political images were drawn with impassioned intensity. He established an important centre of experimental intaglio printmaking at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. He saw engraving as a central skill and insisted that his students master it. Although most of Lasansky’s students did not continue to use engraving, by the late 20th century the majority of American artists working with the burin were Iowa-trained. Some printmakers combined electric engraving tools, dental tools and multiple-line gravers with the traditional burin, for example Virginia Myers (b 1927), who also used engraving with a metallic-foil stamping process in her gesturally drawn figure and landscape prints.
(iv) Late 20th-century engraving
Intaglio printmaking branched in two distinct directions c. 1970: artists who made their own prints, and those who worked collaboratively. Printmakers who made their own prints became associated with ‘academic’ printmaking. Most contemporary engraving falls in this category. Publisher-financed collaborative printmaking, involving well-known painters working with master printers, favoured complicated, innovative and expensive processes but produced little in the way of engraving. Since engraving is image-oriented rather than process-oriented, solitary, technically demanding and time-consuming it has no need of a collaborative situation. One artist who worked collaboratively, Frank Stella, updated Hayter’s approach by combining engraving with computer-generated imagery, relief, aquatint and etching in enormous, multiplate prints produced at Tyler Graphics in the 1980s.
In the late 20th century many American printmakers were using engraving in combination with other intaglio techniques, including Peter Milton (b 1930), who combined elegant burin work with photosensitive ground, aquatint and lift-ground etching in his black-and-white prints. Pure engraving at the end of the 20th century had moved beyond the earlier formalist focus on line per se to focus on figurative imagery with a renewed interest in rich tone. The few artists working as engravers selected the burin for its unique ability to produce its characteristic lines and tones and for its simplicity of means. In the USA they included Beth van Hoesen (b 1926), Evan Lindquist (b 1936), Brian Paulsen and Amy Worthen (b 1946). The situation in Britain was more diverse. Such Hayter-trained engravers as Jean Lodge (born in the USA) flourished, while traditional engravers in the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers continued to dominate the British conception of the medium. Henry Wilkinson, David Wickes, Ann Le Bas (b 1930) and Lawrence Jossett (b 1910) made delicate engravings executed with the highest craftsmanship. Britain remained the one place where traditional engraving techniques for silversmiths, gunmakers and banknote engravers as well as artists continued to be taught. Students from Britain and other countries came to study engraving in the three-year silversmiths’ course at the City of London Polytechnic (now London Guildhall University), Sir John Cass College of Art, intended primarily for students planning to qualify by examination for the guilds.
Burin-engraving flourished perhaps most conspicuously in France, where the country’s rich and varied tradition of engraving was reflected in the strength and variety of its engravers, including Albert Flocon ( fl mid-century–1980s), a major practitioner and theorist of modernist burin engraving and its relationship to geometry and curvilinear perspective. Both experimental and traditional engraving techniques were taught to printmakers trained in the fine arts academy system. At the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts burin engraving became a required part of the training of printmakers. To qualify for the Prix de Rome, students were required to execute a plate engraved with a burin. In central France, at the Ecole Régionale des Beaux-Arts in Saint-Etienne, the traditional craft of gun engraving, long associated with that city, continued to be taught side by side with engraving for printmakers.
Surrealism continued to inspire some of the most interesting European engraving, including the work of a number of French artists outside the Hayter circle. Marc d’Autry engraved grotesque and mythological creatures with a technique inspired by Dürer. Philippe Mohlitz (b 1941) of Bordeaux, a spiritual successor to Jean Duvet and Rodolphe Bresdin, made obsessive Surrealist fantasies designed with grim humour. His lines are delicately engraved but densely packed, creating rich, velvet blacks. Surrealism also influenced the Italian engraver Carla Horat (b 1938). The Italian artist Luce Delhore (b 1952), born in Belgium, is an exception to the generally figurative style of contemporary engraving: he combined burin, drypoint and roulette in rich, luminous abstractions. Engraving and mezzotint became popular in Japan, with an emphasis on contemporary design and craftsmanship. Mitsuru Ishibashi (b 1951) engraved mechanical and graphlike abstractions, using straight, rich burin lines with impressive effect.
From Grove Art Online