Although certain forms of printmaking are currently viewed as a form of artistic expression, that has not always been the case. (arthistory.about.com) For most of history, it has been used to publish information, create “religious icons and playing cards, then to illustrate books.” (Prebles 129) (Printmaking Introduction). Prints began to be seen as works of art during the 18th and 19th centuries when new and improved techniques allowed artists to begin creating original pieces in limited editions in order to increase their value. (arthistory.about.com) (Investopedia) (Prebles 129) Printmakers now had more ways to express themselves, sell their works to the public and make social statements. (Prebles 129) The evolution of printmaking from relief prints to the variety of methods currently available has enabled modern artists to use new and more creative ways to express themselves.
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The four major categories of printmaking are: relief, intaglio, lithography, and stencil and screen printing. (Prebles 129-140) Relief and Intagio printmaking involve cutting images. (Prebles 129 -132). Reliefs “cut away all parts of the printing surface not meant to carry ink” and the image is then applied to paper. (Prebles 129) Examples include woodcut, wood engraving and linocut. (Prebles 130-132) In Intaglio, an image is cut into a plate, ink is applied, and the surface cleaned. (Prebles 133) This leaves the ink in recessed imaged, which is then applied to paper. (Prebles 133) Examples include engraving, dry point and etching. (Prebles 133-135) Lithography doesn’t involve cutting. Instead, the printmaker draws his image onto a stone or metal plate using a greased instrument, such as a crayon or pen. (Prebles 136) The piece is then “chemically treated” so that the ink will only adhere to the image. (Prebles 136) Stenciling involves cutting an image out of sheet, laying that sheet over another medium and applying paint over the top of it in order to it to create an image on the underlying medium. (Prebles 140) Screen printing is a modern form of stencil in which a stencil is laid over a “fabric stretched across a frame” and a squeegee is used to force ink through the stencil onto an underlying surface. (Prebles 140)
The Four Horsemen
Woodcut Printing (the met)
The Four Horsemen, by Albrecht Durer, is an example of traditional relief printing. (Christian Century) Durer was German Renaissance artist famous for his woodcut prints. (Printmaking Introduction) (Britannica) His prints generally dealt “with religion, history, mythology and folklore.” (Britannica ) The Four Horsemen depicts the Christian Apocalypse and is an example of the traditional religious subject matter common for his time.
Durer followed a traditional woodcut process to create this piece. (Christian Century) Woodcut is the oldest relief printmaking method. (Prebles 129) The artist removes the parts of the sideways laying wood the artist doesn’t want from the surface, leaving a raised image. (Prebles 129) As seen above, Durer used traditional black and white ink. (Prebles 129) However, what really stands out is Durer’s ability to create an incredibly detailed image out of wood. (khanacademy.org). Not only are the images sharp, but he was also able use shading in order to create a sense of depth.
The introduction of photography and digital technology has eliminated most of the traditional purposes for printmaking. (Prebles 141) (Britannica – history). Today, printmakers experiment with new materials, digital technology and combine multiple techniques in order to create unique and creative expressions. (Prebles 141-142) (Britannica – history). There is also a greater emphasis on limited editions (Prebles 142).
Marlon Brando in the Wild One
Silkscreen Ink on Unprimed Linen
Andy Warhol’s limited edition, Marlon Brando in the Wild One, is an example of the evolution of printmaking. This piece depicts the iconic image of Marlon Brando in the famous movie The Wild One and reflects Warhol’s interest in portraying pop culture rather than more traditional subject matter. (theartstory.org). In 2012, one of these prints sold for over $23,000,000. (Christies.com)
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Warhol created this piece using a modified silk screen process. He “stretched a piece of mesh over a frame”, laid the screen on top of paper, used a stencil to block off parts of the screen, applied a “photo emulsion” so that the image appeared on the mesh and then applied ink. (Peyo Peyovski) This process allowed him to “transfer images from magazines or newspapers to canvass” and create some of his most iconic pop art pieces. (Peyo Peyovski)
Both traditional and contemporary printmakers, such as Durer and Warhol, used the tools available to them to create their pieces. However, printmaking has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past six-hundred years. While modern inventions have made some of the traditional purposes for printmaking obsolete, they have also paved the way for artists develop new ways to express themselves and explore non-traditional subject matter.
- “Andy Warhol Paintings, Prints+, Bio, Ideas.” The Art Story, www.theartstory.org/artist-warhol-andy.htm.
- “Andy Warhol (1928-1987) , Marlon.” , Marlon | Christie’s, www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/andy-warhol-1928-1987-marlon-5621924-details.aspx.
- “A Brief History of Printmaking .” Arthistory.about.com , file:///C:/Users/desco/OneDrive/Desktop/A%20Brief%20History%20of%20Printmaking%20-%20Web%20Art%20Academy%20%20Web%20Art%20Academy.pdf.
- “Dürer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/northern/durer/a/drer-the-four-horsemen-of-the-apocalypse.
- Frank, Patrick, and Duane Preble. Prebles’ Artforms: an Introduction to the Visual Arts. Pearson, 2014.
- “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, by Albrecht Dürer.” The Christian Century, www.christiancentury.org/article/art/four-horsemen-apocalypse-albrecht-d-rer.
- Kenton, Will. “Limited Edition.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 12 Mar. 2019, www.investopedia.com/terms/l/limited-edition.asp.
- Peterdi, Gabor F. “Printmaking.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 Jan. 2019, www.britannica.com/art/printmaking.
- Peyovski, Peyo. “Andy Warhols Silk Screening Process | Hamilton-Selway.” Hamilton, Peyo Peyovski Https://Hamiltonselway.com/Wp-Content/Uploads/2016/04/Hslogo-1-300×138.Png, 4 May 2017, hamiltonselway.com/andy-warhols-silk-screening-process/.
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