A is for Absorbent Ground

| February 10, 2014

Reading Tim Ingold’s Lines, he discusses a type of line called the trace. An example of a trace, which is a lined formed by continuous movement is etching. Ingold says etching is a reductive trace because it removes material from the surface itself. This sentence lead my mind on a tangential quest to remember the printing processes and relating those processes to reductive and additive traces. Printmaking as a basis for lines makes sense to me because it is often a base for the beginning of learning about art history in foundation art history classes. Understanding the printmaking processes is important for the basic principles and because it was used in various ways to disburse information to a wide audience. The relief and intaglio processes do not exactly relate to additive and reductive, since both require removal of ground. Relief printing is best explained by the woodcut process. A woodcut is made by cutting into the face of a woodblock, usually with a knife The wood is cut away so the areas that dark in the print are the areas where ink adheres and the white/blank spaces are where wood is cut away. Famous woodcut artists are Albrecht Durer, Hans Holbein, and Lucas Cranach the Elder. Intaglio printing is distinguished from relief printing because the design is only printed from the recessed areas of the plate. This is best explained through etching. Etching starts with a metal (copper or zinc) plate that is bitten with acid then coated an absorbent ground, which is acid resistant. The design is drawn in this absorbent ground with a burin,  stylus type instrument. The acid eats through the plate where the burin marks, the more time the plate is left in the acid the coarser the lines become. Then the plate is inked and the surface is rubbed clean, covered with paper (or printing material) and pressed, the ink that was captured in the sunken areas is transferred to the printing material. Famous etchers are Tiepolo and Canaletto as well as Picasso, Goya, Matisse, and Chagall. These printmakers have influenced one another in succession, a line of educational inspiration running through their works.

This is exemplified by Albrecht Durer, considered the father of printmaking.
Rembrandt Example – For an Art History Class in college we visited the Morgan Library where they pulled out their collection of Rembrandt prints and we were able to examine them up close without glass between us and the works. I didn’t appreciate the immense rarity of that learning experience until afterwards, being able to see the exact lines created by Rembrandt so close was wholly different than seeing slides.

2010 MOMA Show that included the famous Vollard Suite, strong Rembrandt print influences