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Coloring Within the Lines: The Use of Stencil in Early Woodcuts

Fig. 1. Workshop of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, The Nativity (ca. 1490, France), stencil-colored woodcut, 23.1 x 16.4 cm in coffer (ca. 1490, France), wood, iron, leather, horsehair, and linen, 22 x 33 x 15 cm. Art Institute of Chicago, restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Vance; the Amanda S. Johnson and Marion J. Livinston Fund, 2009.49.

Recently there has been a renewal of scholarly attention paid to coffrets à estampes, fascinating wood and metal boxes from the late 15th to early 16th centuries whose inner lids were usually decorated with colored devotional woodcuts. While historians are still trying to decipher what function these enigmatic containers served, they agree that the boxes appear to have been fabricated in Paris and that a majority of the prints can be attributed to the workshop of the Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, now identified as the painter Jean d’Ypres, who was active in France between 1490–1510 (Fig. 1). Read More

The Recurrence of Caprice: Chagoya’s Goyas

Enrique Chagoya, La Libertad (Liberty) (2006). Monotype on Somerset paper, 34 1/2 x 47 3/4 inches. Edition of 3. Printed and published by Smith Andersen Editions, Palo Alto, CA. ©Enrique Chagoya. Courtesy of the artist and George Adams Gallery, New York.

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. —Karl Marx As if taking Marx’s famous observation to heart, a number of contemporary artists have appropriated Francisco Goya’s darkly satirical prints to serve their own commentaries on human folly. Read More

Paul Coldwell: A Layered Practice— Graphic Works 1993–2012

Paul Coldwell, Border I (2002), inkjet, image 52 x70 cm, sheet 65 x 80 cm. Edition of 7. Printed and published by the artist, London.

We take for granted today as indispensable means the rectangular form of the sheet of paper and its clearly defined smooth surface on which one draws and writes. But such a field corresponds to nothing in nature or mental imagery where the phantoms of visual memory come up in a vague unbounded void. —Meyer Schapiro When I visited his London house to prepare for the retrospective exhibition “A Layered Practice—Graphic Works 1993–2012,” the eminent British artist Paul Coldwell showed me an old-fashioned etching press in a ground-floor room looking onto the garden. Read More

A Visual Turn: Comics and Art after the Graphic Novel

Again and again over the course of the 20th century, new popular media—photography, film, video—were adopted by contemporary artists who had trained in traditional techniques such as painting or sculpture. British sculptor Richard Long put it this way: “I am an artist who sometimes chooses to use photographs.” For decades it has seemed that the printed comic might be ripe for such assimilation, but while the rubric now encompasses everything from superheroes to an experimental avant-garde, the valorization of comics by art institutions (museums, galleries and publications) has remained elusive. Read More

Nicole Eisenman’s Year of Printing Prolifically

Nicole Eisenman, Drinks with Possible Spirit Type Entity (2012), etching and aquatint with chine collé, 10 1/4 x 11 3/4 in. Edition of 25. Printed and published by Harlan & Weaver, New York.

At Leo Koenig Gallery in Chelsea early last summer, the painter Nicole Eisenman mounted an exhibition chronicling her first intensive foray into printmaking, an area in which she had previously only dabbled. On view were more than 60 prints, large and small, in monotype, lithography, woodcut and intaglio. It was as if Eisenman had sprung fully formed and armed from the head of the god of prints. Read More

Remaking Dürer: Investigating the Master Engravings by Masterful Engraving

Andrew Raftery’s engraved copper plate, partially finished, after Albrecht Dürer’s St Paul (1514). An enlargement of Dürer’s original lies under the plate, alongside engraving tools.

For the last three years paper conservator Angela Campbell and artist-engraver Andrew Raftery have been engaged in an innovative research project aimed at answering certain questions about Albrecht Dürer’s working methods and about the physical life of engraved plates—the sources of some of the most powerful and influential images of the 16th century. Read More

When Assemblage Makes Sense: An Example of a Coffret à Estampe

Coffrets à estampe in the collection of the Department of Prints and Photographs, Bibliothèque national de France (BnF).

In a time of digital images, tweets, posts and SMS, it is especially meaningful when one engages with the physical substance of objects from the past. In comparison with sculpture, painting or architecture, prints inhabit a distinct kind of materiality. An object in two dimensions supporting an image, the print was and still is often discussed as either a simple vehicle of iconographic content or as the servile assistant to some more ‘noble’ art like painting or drawing. But as all connoisseurs of the medium know, the realization of a print requires as many interventions, implements and materials as a marble bust, an easel painting or a pastel drawing. Read More

Publishing, Secrecy and Curiosity in a German Conclave Print

Christoph Weigel (publisher), Der Grund-Riß des Conclave und die Beschreibung aller Solennitaeten: welche in Rom nach Absterben eines Pabstes, und beÿ der Erwehlung seines Nachfolgers vorzugehen pflegen (c. 1700-1720), engraving, 38.2 x 47.5 cm. Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library.

The point of the conclave prints that circulated at the death of a pope was to reveal what was, by definition, the secret and mysterious ritual surrounding the election of a new one. The word conclave, from the Latin cum clave, “with a key,” denoted secrecy in its very name. These carefully compartmented etchings and engravings, lined with text and crowded with images, began to appear in Rome in the 16th century. They picked up momentum with the increase in pomp that characterized papal ceremony in the following century, and the market for them was further fed by the curiosity of the many tourists who came to Rome to marvel at its antiquities, and pilgrims hungry for a glimpse of ancient rites such as these. Read More

The Mechanical Hand: Artists’ Projects at Paupers Press

Mat Collishaw, Insecticide 15 (2009), photogravure etching, 70 x 70 cm. Edition of 35. Printed and published by Paupers Press.

For more than 25 years, Paupers Press in London has been making finely crafted, adventurous, and sometimes eccentric prints with British painters, sculptors and conceptual artists. Their 25th anniversary was recently marked with an exhibition of more than 200 prints at the Gallery in Kings Place, an exhibition space located in the new cultural quarter of Kings Cross in the very centre of London. Read More

Mokuhanga International

Fig. 7. Karen Kunc, Bay (2011), woodcut, mokuhanga woodblock, watercolor, wax, 19 x 38 inches. Edition of 4. Printed by the artist, published by the artist.

Fig. 10. Mike Lyon, Sarah Reclining (2006), woodblock print from 17 cherry plywood blocks, dry pigment and neri-zumi, 42 x 77 inches. Edition of 8. Printed and published by the artist.

The richly colored, visually dynamic woodblock technique perfected in Japan during the 18th and 19th centuries is known internationally by the Japanese term mokuhanga. The character for moku literally means wood, while hanga can be broken down into two concepts (each represented by a separate character), the first character being han, meaning print, edition or impression, and the second ga, meaning picture. The expression does not describe the act of printing so much as it refers to the resulting object, the print. Read More