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Description: Impressions of Light: The French Landscape from Corot to Monet
Glossary for Works on Paper
PublisherMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Glossary for Works on Paper
Photography Techniques
ALBUMEN PRINT—A print made with light-sensitive silver salts held in an albumen (egg white) coating on paper. Unlike SALT PRINTs, albumen prints have a glossy surface, and the image appears to sit on top of the paper, rather than in it. Albumen prints are usually, although not always, made with GLASS-PLATE NEGATIVES. (Invented 1850; commonly used 1850s-90s.)
CALOTYPE—A term often used to refer to both the PAPER NEGATIVE and the resulting SALT PRINT. Calotype negatives are made by applying a series of solutions to create light-sensitive salts on paper. The sensitized paper is exposed in a camera to produce a latent image that is then developed. The negative is contact printed in daylight, producing a salt print. (Invented 1840; commonly used 1840s-early 50s.)
CLICHÉ-VERRE—A type of GLASS-PLATE NEGATIVE in which the glass is coated with a wet or dry opaque substance, through which an artist draws or scratches a design. The resulting negative is printed as with any glass-plate negative and can be turned over to print the reverse image. (In use as early as 1835.)
GLASS-PLATE NEGATIVE—A negative created by applying a light-sensitive emulsion to a plate of glass. Glass negatives typically produce a sharper and more detailed image than paper negatives. However, the fragility of large glass plates makes them more difficult to use in the field. These negatives are most often used in the creation of ALBUMEN PRINTS. (First in use in 1848 with WET-COLLODION PROCESS.)
PAPER NEGATIVE—A negative made by applying a series of solutions to create light-sensitive salts on paper. In order to make the paper more transparent, it is sometimes treated with a wax or gelatin coating. Individual paper fibers are often visible in prints made from paper negatives. See also SALT PRINT, CALOTYPE, and ALBUMEN PRINT. (First used in 1840.)
PHOTOGRAVURE—A photomechanical process in which a photographic image is transferred and etched into a copper plate. As with traditional printmaking, the resulting plate is inked and printed in a press. The appeal of printing photographic images in ink is that an artist can easily produce a large number of consistent prints that will not discolor over time. (In experimental form in the 1860s; modern photogravure invented in 1879.)
SALT PRINT (or SALTED PAPER PRINT)—The earliest photographic print process to use a negative. Paper is made light sensitive by application of a salt solution followed by silver nitrate. Salt prints are contact printed from the negative and appear as though the image is embedded in the paper. (Invented 1840; commonly used 1840s-50s.)
STEREOCARD (or STEREOGRAPH)—A small card displaying two nearly identical images side by side. Such a card, in combination with a special viewer called a stereoscope, imitates human binocular vision. The stereoscope blocks out peripheral vision and causes the eye to merge the two photographs into what appears to be a single, three-dimensional image.
WET-COLLODION PROCESS—A process whereby a sticky substance is poured onto a plate of glass and made light-sensitive immediately prior to exposure in the camera. The glass-plate negative is exposed while wet and then developed immediately after exposure. When executed outside the studio, the collodion process requires a portable darkroom for coating and developing the plates. By the mid-1850s, a less frequently used dry-collodion process was developed, which did not require exposing a wet negative. (Invented 1848; commonly used 1850s-70s.)
Print Techniques
AQUATINT—An etching technique used to create areas of graduated tone rather than lines. A printing plate is prepared by coating the area where tone is desired with tiny grains of an acid-resistant material such as rosin. When placed in an acid solution, the plate is bitten only around the grains, creating an irregular network of pits (or crevices). This pitted surface holds the ink and prints as an even tone. Variation in the tonality depends on the length of time the plate is exposed to the acid and the size and density of the granular particles: longer exposure creates deeper pits that hold more ink, resulting in a darker tone. In LIFT-GROUND ETCHING (also called sugar-lift) the portion of the plate to receive tone is brushed with a solution in which sugar has been dissolved. The entire plate is then covered with a stopping-out varnish and immersed in water. As the sugar in the solution swells, it lifts areas of varnish off the plate, leaving the brushed area exposed. These areas are then covered with an aquatint ground and bitten while the stopping-out varnish protects the rest of the plate. This technique is used to develop painterly, subtly toned imagery.
CHINE COLLÉ—A method whereby two pieces of paper (usually one much lighter-weight than the other, such as an Asian tissue) are adhered together during the printing process. This technique allows for printing effects that are unattainable on the thinner sheet without the support of the heavier paper.
CLICHÉ-VERRE—See under Photographic Techniques.
DRYPOINT—A technique often used in conjunction with etching, in which a steel or diamond point is used to scratch directly into the printing plate.
ETCHING—A printing process in which an artist covers a printing plate (traditionally made of copper) with a waxy ground, and then draws in the ground with a point or needle, exposing the plate. The plate is then submerged in acid, which bites away at the plate only where the ground has been removed, leaving grooves. Next, the plate is covered with ink, filling the grooves. The surface may be wiped clean, or some tone may be left on and manipulated. In either case, the plate is run through a press with dampened paper, causing the ink to be transferred to the paper. In SOFT-GROUND ETCHING an artist draws on a sheet of paper set on top of a plate covered with a sticky ground. Wherever the pressure of the drawing pushes the paper against the ground, the ground is removed along with the paper. The plate is then etched and printed, creating tonal areas and soft, granular lines reminiscent of chalk, crayon, or soft pencil.
LITHOGRAPH—A printing process in which the flat surface of a stone (traditionally limestone) or a metal plate (as in a ZINCOGRAPH) is treated to make it receptive to printing ink wherever it is drawn on with a greasy medium, such as crayon or tusche (used as wash or with pen in the case of a pen lithograph). The remaining surface, where no drawing exists, is kept wet during the printing process to repel the greasy ink. Because there is no raised relief (as in woodcut) or depressed area (as in etching, drypoint, and aquatint) that wears out with repeated printing, lithographs are ideal for creating large numbers of prints.
MONOTYPE—A printing process in which an artist draws directly on some material (such as a metal plate or glass) with greasy ink or paint and then runs it through a press to create a print. Only one strong impression (or print) can be made, hence the name monotype.
ROULETTE—A spiked wheel used to create a tone or dotted lines directly on the printing plate.
STATE—A stage in the progress of a print at which impressions are printed. Only the addition or deletion of marks on the plate, stone, or block is considered a change of state.
TRIAL PROOF or WORKING PROOF—A preliminary impression of a print to check the progress of the work.
WOODCUT—A print made by carving a block or plank of wood to leave a raised surface, with the blank areas of the design cut away and the design itself standing out in relief. The raised surface is then inked, and the ink is transferred to paper, creating the print.
WOOD ENGRAVING—A relief printmaking process, similar to woodcut, in which areas of wood are cut away to leave the final image. The wood-engraving block—traditionally boxwood—is cut across the end-grain, in contrast to those used for woodcuts, which are cross-grained or plankside blocks. This allows for finer detail in the wood-engraved image. Wood engravings were often used as illustrations in nineteenth-century books and magazines.
ZINCOGRAPH—A printing technique similar to a lithograph except that it uses a zinc plate rather than limestone as the printing surface. See LITHOGRAPH.
For more information about photographic techniques, see Baldwin 1991, Crawford 1979, and Reilly 1986; for more information about printing techniques, see Brunner 1984 and Ivins 1987.
Glossary for Works on Paper
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