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Engravings

4,126 artworks, 401 artists
Engraving is a special type of art that requires an artist to handle not only a pencil and brush, but also a cutter. The technique of creating engravings is quite complicated: a pattern is cut on a plate of metal, wood, linoleum, cardboard or other dense materials. The resulting base is coated with ink, and then pressed against a sheet of paper.

The art of engraving originated in the 15th century. Artists of that era experimented with the available materials – the first engravers used cheap plates of wood or metal (mainly copper). The development of this type of art was largely influenced by the invention of the printing press: soon engravings came to replace the handwritten miniatures, which used to illustrate books.

At first, engravers used biblical stories as subjects of their works, but over time, prints began to depict events from ancient myths, landscapes, portraits of famous figures, scenes from everyday life. Despite the fact that the set of visual aids was not very diverse (strokes, scratches, cuts, etching according to the sketch), the great engraving artists of the Middle Ages managed to create works of art that still amaze the viewer with their clear lines, a game of shades and meanings with all that image brevity.

Such expressiveness was achieved through the use of allegories, metaphors, hints. The medieval tradition of fine art provided for the use of a specially designed sign language, where objects, plants, and even the body positions were assigned a certain meaning. This technique was used by such great engraving artists as Meister E. S., Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, Giovanni Piranesi, Brueghel the Elder, Gustave Doré, Jean Duve.

Over time, the art of engraving developed: new directions appeared, the classical engraving technique improved and the new ones were invented. To create prints, artists used such techniques as intaglio or relief printing, etching, print, block printing, lithography, monotype, silkscreen. Today, these techniques are used by modern engraving artists who create original images describing the world around us – people, nature, unique objects and phenomena.

Arthive invites you to take a tour of the virtual engraving hall, where you can get acquainted with the artworks by the outstanding engravers of the past and present.
Engraving (fr. graver — cut, carve, germ. graben — dig) is a technique for creating works of art by printing an image from a printing plate onto paper. Manually or using a machine, artists-engravers cut out a drawing on a wooden board, stone or metal plate, paint it and make a print. The peculiarity of the technique is possibility to make multiple copies, and graphic style of the finished drawing, which depends on the hardness and processing technology of the printed medium, as well as the method of image creating. In woodcut, the artist works with wood, in etching — with metal, in linocut — with a polished sheet of linoleum. To create convex engravings, the artist carves the image on wood, plastic or metal. Print on paper consists of strokes, lines and spots that add up to a picture. To make flat engravings, the artist draws with pencil and ink on a stone carrier. To create intaglio prints, the artist needs to make furrows on polished metal plates and fill them with paint.
The first examples of “carved” graphics appeared in the 6th century in China, and later they spread to Japan. European artists mastered the technique in the 14th century, with the development of book printing, since there had been no paper in the Old World before. For five centuries, the art of engraving has provided the poor with access to art and literature. In the 20th century, in the USSR, printing technology was used by the state and propaganda.
Japanese artists have created a unique heritage of engravings. Thousands of works depicting svelte oriental beauties, birds of paradise and mountain landscapes adorn the museum halls and cause pride for collectors. Suzuki Harunobu, a talented master of ukiyo-e painting and the discoverer of colour engraving, painted portraits of kabuki actors and slender girls against the backdrop of a landscape. The public was captivated by his genre scenes, Young Woman Admiring a Snow Rabbit 1761, Young Lovers Walking Together under an Umbrella in a Snow Storm 1767 and Young Couple by a Gate 1769. The artist Katsushika Hokusai brought European painting trends to the foundations of Japanese engraving and created a canonical graphic series, 36 views of Mount Fuji. It includes paintings, such as Red Fuji and The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the samples of the technology that boldly claim to be the most famous engravings in art history.
The 14th century European artists mastered the graphic technique and created compositions with clumsy, disproportionate and childishly naive figures. Then was Albrecht Dürer. During his lifetime, the German painter and printmaker won the glory of a genius, and the Renaissance period in Germany was called the “era of Dürer”. To be acquainted with the masterpieces of engraving technique, one name of Dürer is enough for you: look at the artist’s works, Melancholy, The Mass of Saint Gregory or Knight, Death and the Devil — and you will fall in love with the printed graphic art. The Frenchman Paul Gustave Doré is recognized as the greatest illustrator of the 19th century who enriched the treasury of world art with atmospheric scenes from The Bible, The Divine Comedy, The Fairy Tales by Charles Perrault, and Don Quixote by Cervantes. The Englishman Thomas Bewick invented the transverse engraving method and created masterly illustrations for the History of British Birds, Aesop’s fables and Robert Burns’ poems. The 20th century of graphics passed under the sign of Maurits Cornelis Escher. The Dutch artist did not paint a single painting in his life, but in his engravings, he built a magical parallel world of Stars, Snakes and Metamorphoses.
The most famous engravings:
Knight, Death and the Devil 1513, Melancholy 1514 by Albrecht Dürer; Seven Deadly Sins series 1558, Seven Virtues series by Pieter Bruegel the Elder; Pieta 1582, The Madonna Appearing to Saint Jerome 1588 by Agostino Carracci; South Wind, Clear Sky (Red Fuji) 1832, Crossbill and Thistle 1834 by Katsushika Hokusai; Dante. Hell 1861, illustrations for the Don Quixote novel 1863 by Paul Gustave Doré; Battles 1915, Nervous People Eating 1917 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.
Famous engravers:
Albrecht Dürer, Francisco Goya, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, William Blake, Paul Gustave Doré, Marc Chagall, Maurits Cornelis Escher.

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