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Sun, 10 Dec 2023
The Art of Printing
# 17:13 in ./general

I went to see the new National Gallery of Scotland exhibition The Printmaker's Art | Rembrandt to Rego. Printing is both art and craft, and here you often need to make the tool to then make your art. For instance, etching a copper plate or sanding a stone block for lithographic printing. The exhibition has some good videos showing a few of the printing techniques available to an artist (the videos are also on their YouTube channel).

There are some very good prints on display here, some phenomenally good. An example of the latter is Claude Mellan's Head of Christ, an engraving printed on paper.

As the information in the gallery box says :

"Incredibly, this entire image has been formed using a single engraved line swirling outwards from the tip of the nose."

Right: Face of Christ on St. Veronica's Cloth, Claude Mellan, 1649. Engraving; second state of two.

NOTE: The image is taken from The Metropolitan Museum in New York. To properly see the amazing print, you need to see it in person or, at least, go to the Met link.

There is a whole other side to Rembrandt's artistic output: printmaking. He was a master of the art and the exhibition has an example of this in his print Christ Presented to the People ('Ecce Homo'). The gallery shows two versions, a later one he reworked, showing his mastery of the Drypoint printing technique. The print is made by using a needle or sharp object to directly incise the lines in a metal plate. The Met Museum has an essay about this.

The image below is from the National Gallery of Scotland web site.

Above: Christ Presented to the People ('Ecce Homo'), Rembrandt, 1655, Drypoint.

An unfamiliar name to me, Joan Hassall produced a print called The Stricken Oak that is absolutely amazing.

Shown on the right, it should be seen in all its glory, either in real life or the National Gallery of Scotland web site. A beautiful and very finely detailed wood cut.

Right: The Stricken Oak, Joan Hassall. Wood engraving on paper, 1937 [link].

There are a lot of pieces worth seeing and this only scratches the surface. We also have William Blake: tiny wood engravings illustrating Thornton's Pastorals of Virgil (see the Tate site).

Hokusai, Otto Dix, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Picasso, Goya, Constable and more.

I'm a member of the National Gallery of Scotland so it is an easy decision to go back for another look. However, even if I wasn't a member, I think another visit would be hard to resist.

Printing has been something I have wanted to try my hand at for a long time and this is another little push to have a go sometime.

© Alastair Sherringham 2023
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