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Engraving

7,622 artworks, 481 artists
Engraving (fr. graver — cut, carve) is a work of art that is obtained as a result of an imprint of a carved base (matrix) on paper, sometimes on fabric. There are different types of matrices to hold the carved image: plates of copper, zinc or aluminium, polymer or plastic sheets, stone, linoleum, wood, cardboard. Each copy is an original piece of art and not a copy. This also applies to engravings, matrices (or “boards”) for which are cut out by engravers after the artists’ sketches. The number of prints for each image is usually limited. Artists often number and sign each copy, and then the matrix that was used for imprinting is destroyed. The finite number of prints per board adds value to an artwork.

The techniques for creating engravings are quite numerous, they are distinguished by two main printing methods: letterpress and intaglio printing. The matrix pattern has depth, and the ink can be transferred to the paper either from the protruding elements — letterpress, or from the recesses between the protruding elements — intaglio printing (in this case, the paint is removed from the surface of the board and left only in the recesses).

Letterpress techniques include linocut, woodcut, and cardboard engraving. Intaglio printing techniques include etching and its varieties, aquatint, drypoint, mezzotinto, lavis, pencil style. Prints in lithographic and monotypic techniques are obtained using the flat printing method and they are not engravings. Moreover, all works that are obtained by transferring paint from a base to paper or fabric (including screen printing) are called printmaking (the French call it estampe). Thus, any engraving is a print, but not every print is an engraving.

The first engraving techniques were invented by the Oriental artists around the 5th century. Chinese masters created prints using woodcut technique. Europe invented the art of engraving on its own, and it happened at the turn of the 14—15th centuries, when paper became widely available and fairly cheap material. Typically, artists created patterns on the surface of a wooden board, after which the carvers removed the gaps between the pattern lines. The paint was applied to the surface of the board, then paper was applied to the matrix and rolled by hand or pressed with a press.

By the middle of the 15th century, the engraving technique was invented in Germany, the principle of which came from the art of jewelry. Artisans carved a drawing with a sharp cutter on a metal plate, usually copper. Such matrix was strong enough and enabled obtaining a larger number of prints (up to several hundred) than from a wooden board.

It is believed that the technique of etching was invented by the German Daniel Hopfer, and the first artist to use it in his artworks in 1515 was Albrecht Dürer. The artist covered a metal plate (copper or zinc) with a layer of wax, in which he scratched his drawing to the entire depth of the layer. Then the plate was placed in a bath of acid, which corroded the metal that was not covered with wax, thus forming the pattern. Then the wax was cleaned off; the applied paint remained in the recesses of the drawing, and the surface was carefully wiped off before making an impression on paper.

The modern engraving art is widely used in the printing of banknotes and official documents with a high degree of security. Today this art form is quite rare. A variety of printmaking techniques are still taught in all art schools, but few artists fully devote their work to the ancient art of engraving, which makes such works quite rare on the market.

Iconic engravings:
Apocalypse series of prints by Albrecht Dürer, 1496—1498
Melancholy by Albrecht Dürer, 1514
The veil of Saint Veronica by Claude Mellan 1649
Don Quixote by Paul Gustave Doré, 1862

Famous artists who created engravings:
Albrecht Dürer, Martin Schongauer, Bartholomeus Spranger, Lucas van Leiden, Jean Duvet, Jacob van der Heyden, Rembrandt, Piranesi, William Hogarth, Giovanni Castiglione, Paul Gustave Doré, William Hogarth, Francisco Goya, Maurits Escher, Marc Chagall, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky.
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