Etching

What is etching? 


Etching is a printmaking process. The purpose of this technique is to apply an impression on the paper with an etched plate. The manufacturing process requires a special needle which it’s going to be used to draw on a metal plate. Then the plate is treated with acid - which produces incised lines, and ink. In the end, the plate is used to print reproductions of the design.

 Photo of etching tools Courtesy of the artist Liz Zanis - THE SPACE gallery

Photo of etching tools
Courtesy of the artist Liz Zanis (American) and the MET, New-York, USA

 

Etching is a part of the Intaglio printmaking method. It is the reference to all the printmaking techniques which are using indents or incisions into a plate or print surface such as:

  • Engraving
  • Drypoint
  • Mezzotint
  • Aquatint
  • Stipple
  • Lithography
  • Silkscreen Printing

 

Etching process in History…

If etching was commonly used in Antiquity as a decorative tool for jewellery, the etching process was invented by Daniel Hopfer. Hopfer was a craftsman who decorated armour, and applied the method to printmaking, using iron plates. 

In the 17th century, artists used 3 different types of techniques: copper engraving, drypoint and etching. Each technique processes the same way but with some particularities: 

  • Copper engraving is the oldest process and was the most used during the Renaissance. The process is difficult and required a strong metal-working skill because it involves carving directly on the copper plate. 
  • The Drypoint process involves a needle also called a burin, used to carve the plate.

 

Etching was the solution for those without a metal-working background.

‘Self-Portrait in a Cap, Open Mouthed’ by Rembrandt van Rijn - 1630 - THE SPACE gallery

‘Self-Portrait in a Cap, Open Mouthed’ by Rembrandt van Rijn - 1630. 
Courtesy of Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA, USA

 

The 17th century is known as the great age of etching, with Rembrandt for example.

 ‘Vedute di Roma’ by Giovanni Battista Piranesi - 1750-78 - THE SPACE gallery

‘Vedute di Roma’ by Giovanni Battista Piranesi - 1750/78. 
Courtesy of the MET, New-York, USA

 

In the 18th century, Piranesi, Tiepolo and Daniel Chodowiecki were famous etchers.

‘At The Piano’ by Anders Zorn - 1900 - THE SPACE gallery 

‘At The Piano’ by Anders Zorn - 1900. 
Courtesy of the MET, New-York, USA

 

From 1850 to 1930, the Etching remerge especially in France, Britain and the United-States produced artists, but no major figures appeared. Etching is still widely practised today.

Etching was used in magazine like La Mode Illustrée - THE SPACE galleryEtching was used in magazine like La Mode Illustrée, a French magazine with hand painted fashion prints. Artwork created in 1867.

 

Check out collection of etchings HERE

  

References:

  • TheFreeDictionary.com
  • Tate.org.uk
  • Theartnewspaper.com
  • MetMuseum.org
  • NortonSimon.org

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