Prints of Darkness: Four Centuries of Mezzotint

Exhibition Review

  • "Burnishing the Night: Baroque to Contemporary Mezzotints from the Collection"

  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • 21 Feb 2015 - 31 May 2015

Dark, velvety, luscious—these are just a few adjectives to describe the surface of an expertly printed mezzotint engraving. Worked from dark to light, mezzotints are produced through an inversion of conventional intaglio processes. Rather than building tones through the accumulation of marks, a mezzotint plate is “rocked” to an allover state of darkness before lighter tones are created through burnishing. It is like drawing through erasure, but in metal. The resulting prints are completely tonal, largely devoid of the linear qualities inherent to engraving and etching. Mezzotint is the black sheep, so to speak, of the intaglio family.

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