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MHS Library | Printmaking

Engraving (definition)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A copperplate engraver at work

Engraving is the practice of incising a design on to a hard, usually flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called engravings.

Engraving was a historically important method of producing images on paper, both in artistic printmaking, and also for commercial reproductions and illustrations for books and magazines. It has long been replaced by various photographic processes in its commercial applications and, partly because of the difficulty of learning the technique, is much less common in printmaking, where it has been largely replaced by etching and other techniques.

Traditional engraving, by burin or with the use of machines, continues to be practised by goldsmiths, glass engravers, gunsmithsand others, while modern industrial techniques such as photoengraving and laser engraving have many important applications.Engraved gems were an important art in the ancient world, revived at the Renaissance, although the term traditionally coversrelief as well as intaglio carvings, and is essentially a branch of sculpture rather than engraving, as drills were the usual tools.

The printed image in the West : Engraving (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

List of engravers

(from Wikipedia)

Albrecht Dürer: Knight Death and the Devil (engraving)

Knight, Death, and the Devil, 1513–14
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)
Engraving (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

What to Look for:Engraving is done with a very sharp tool called a burin. The burin is held in the palm of the hand and pushed through the copper engraving plate. As the burin moves through the plate it removes a small amount of copper that twists away like an apple paring. Engraved lines display several idiosyncrasies that help distinguish them from etched or drypoint lines. First of all the lines are almost inevitably elegant, gently arcing strokes that start as a point, swell to a larger width, and taper off again. The width of the line can be modulated by pressure or by repeated engraving. The burin also lends itself to little flicks and stabs that have a characterstic triangular shape (see knight's helmet for a good example).Dürer developed a sophisticated system that uses engraved lines almost like the lines of a topological map to describe forms (notice the way the lines in the horse's neck define the shape of the neck as well as its tonality). The logical conclusion of this technique is the tight vocabulary of reproductive engraving. Dürer engraved passages that resemble a staggering array of textures and surfaces (compare, for example, the hair of the dog, the surface of the armor and the leather of the knight's boot. (from Spencer Museum of Art)