Intaglio Printmaking Illustrated

Catherine McDonagh from the cataloguing department has prepared this month’s display in the Berkeley foyer, which features illustrations originally produced using intaglio printing techniques.

In intaglio printing, incisions are etched or impressed into a steel or copper plate. Ink is then applied to the plate and sinks down into the incised areas. The surface of the plate is wiped so that the ink only remains in the incisions and a print is taken. There are a number of methods that can be used to make these incisions. This exhibition looks at etching, engraving, aquatint, mezzotint, and photogravure techniques.

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On display are 4 examples of illustrations, the originals of which were printed using different intaglio techniques. In the print “A horse frightened by a lion”  George Stubbs used a mixed method of engraving which lies somewhere between aquatint and mezzotint, giving a tonal quality to the work. Francisco Goya used a variety of intaglio printmaking techniques in his series of prints “The Disasters of the War“. Etching and engraving can be seen in the line work while aquatint is used for the tonal areas. Photogravure illustrations are utilised in the successful author/illustrator collaboration between Irish novelist Lord Dunsany and English artist Sidney Sime “Time and the Gods” which inspired later authors and artists in the fantasy genre. The skill of graphic artist M.C. Escher is evident in the very dark and very light tones side by side in “Eye“. He mastered the technically difficult tonal engraving process of mezzotint to achieve this exact tone.

Many thanks to Catherine for her work in preparing this exhibition!