A 20th-century manual printing press
is made using the same process as engraving, with one major difference: the burr. With drypoint the process of incising gives a slightly raised, ragged edge to the lines, known as the burr. A copper plate is preferred as the softer metal lends itself well to this technique. When ink is applied to the surface of the plate, both the incised lines and specifically their burr edges receive the ink giving the printed line a distinctive velvety look. The fragility of these delicate raised edges makes them vulnerable to wear as more prints are pulled, so drypoint is usually used for small editions.
What is a Burin?
Gripped like a pencil, the burin is an intaglio tool used to incise a matrix. It is likened to a very fine chisel with a lozenge-shaped tip and allows artists to play more freely with the strength of their mark making and the size of their lines – creating variations in width and darkness in the resulting print.
What is a Printing Matrix?
This is a physical surface that can be manipulated to hold ink, which is then transferred onto paper. The main matrices used in printmaking are: a metal plate, linoleum tile, block of wood or a slab of limestone.
is one of the earliest intaglio techniques and is the simple process of incising an image onto a metal plate using a burin, then spreading ink across the finished matrix, forcing it into the incised lines. The technique of engraving metal dates from classical antiquity when it was used as a method to decorate objects. However, it was not until about 1430 in Germany that engraved plates began to be used for print making.
is a method in which acid is used to ‘bite’ into the metal plate and produce incised lines which then hold the applied ink and form the image when transferred to paper. It was used for decorating metal from the 14th century but was not used for printmaking much before the early 16th century due to its perceived complexity in comparison to engraving. The metal plate must first be coated in an acid-resistant powder. The design is then drawn onto the plate, removing said powder and exposing the metal in these parts. The plate is then submerged in an acid bath and the exposed metal is ‘bitten’ producing the incised lines. Once any remaining ground is removed and ink applied, the plate is placed against a sheet of paper and run through a printing press to transfer the ink from the newly incised lines onto the sheet.
David Hockney, The Old Guitarist, from 'The Blue Guitar' portfolio, etching, 1977
What is an Edition?
A limited number of identical prints pulled from the same matrix or matrices. Each print is numbered, usually in the lower sheet margin. To guarantee a limited edition, the artist or printer can strike the plate by incising an ‘X’ on the printing face after completion.
like etching, it is an intaglio technique using chemical action. However, aquatint is used to create tonal effects rather than precise lines and is for this reason often used in combination with other intaglio methods. The technique was developed in France in the 1760s and became popular in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Acid-resistant powder is applied to areas of the metal plate where tone is desired. An intense heat is then used to seal the coating and the plate is submerged in an acid bath. Once again, the acid bites into the metal around the particles of the powder to produce a granular pattern of tiny indented rings. These hold sufficient ink to give the effect of an area of tone when inked and printed. Gradations of tone can be achieved by varying the length of time in the acid bath; with longer periods producing more deeply-bitten areas, which in turn print darker areas of tone.
Shapero Modern specialises in Modern & Contemporary prints, multiples and works on paper, with a particular focus on American 20th-century art all of which are available to buy from our website as well as our gallery on Maddox Street in Mayfair.
The gallery runs a programme of selling exhibitions from both primary and secondary market artists, with six exhibitions per year, including collaborations with contemporary living artists as well as masters of 20th-century post-war editions including Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Claes Oldenburg, Alex Katz, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.
Shapero Modern exhibits at major international Art Fairs worldwide, including TEFAF Maastricht, Frieze Masters, Masterpiece London, Art Miami, the IFPDA Fine Art Print Fair and the London Original Print Fair at Somerset House. Meantime, Tabitha and her team are on hand at Shapero Modern’s Mayfair gallery in the heart of London to advise on all aspects of the art market and collecting.