Norton Museum of Art

West Palm Beach, Florida




July 19 to September 6, 1998

Platemarks, an exhibition organized by the Norton Museum of Art, looks at the mysterious process of creating prints using the intaglio process (engraving, etching, mezzotint, aquatint and drypoint). The exhibition takes a historic look at artists' relationship to printmaking by displaying works from 1512 through 1998. Artists included are: Albrecht Diirer, Rembrandt Van Rijn, Gionvanni Battista Piranesi, Francisco Goya, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, John Taylor Arms, Reginald Marsh, Gordon Cook, Lester Johnson, Kyu-Bak Hwang and Leslie Lerner.

The fine print has evolved slowly over a period of six centuries. The invention of this genus of the graphic arts (in which a design worked onto metal, wood, or some other substance is transferred to paper through application of pressure and the aegis of printing ink) cannot be credited to any one individual. Rather, developments in other fields were slowly absorbed by fine artists who wished to make multiple images which were none the less original artistic expressions in their own right. As time went by, new methods of achieving this end became fashionable, and in some cases were pioneered by particular artists.

Some of the earliest printmakers were often trained goldsmiths or armorers. In both of these professions, the art of incising lines into hard metal for decorative purposes was practiced. The first engraved impressions were probably the result of an accidental discovery, when it was found that an incised line filled with ink or color would, under pressure, transfer a design onto paper. The engraving was used widely particularly for the reproduction and interpretation of paintings.

One reason that the engraving lost ground as a principal form of artistic expression was the development of the etching. The particular nature of this process allowed artists far greater freedom to achieve heightened effects of tonality and a new fluidity of line. Undeniably, Rembrandt holds a unique position in the roster of great etchers. While the craft of etching to many of his contemporaries meant no more than the transference of a drawing onto copper, it achieved a new eminence in Rembrandt's hands. Not only did he fully exploit the tonal and calligraphic qualities of the medium, but he also embellished his plates with other techniques such as drypoint and engraving to achieve the best possible effect. One can view Rembrandt's etching The Death of a Virgin, 1639 in this exhibition.

Etching is a variety of the intaglio process. A variety of etching is aquatint. One artist who used both of these intaglio techniques to previously unimagined effect was Francisco Goya, arguably the greatest virtuoso printmaker of all time. In Goya' s work we again see an artist pushing the boundaries of skill and knowledge. This was not only due to his imaginative use of the aquatint technique, but also his subject matter. Goya's etching and aquatint Hilan Delgado (Plate 44 from Los Caprichos), 1799 will be on display.

Also included in the exhibition is a work by Leslie Lerner, a California artist now living in Sarasota and teaching at the Ringling School of Art & Design. Mr. Lerner collaborated with GraphicStudio, the premier experimental print shop, at the University of South Florida, to create a work of art for this exhibition. The work examines the process of etching starting with the beginning process to the finished plate. The work was executed in four states and also includes the preliminary drawing.


Images from top to bottom: Reginald marsh, Merry-go-Round, etching, 6 13/16 x 97/8, gift of Feragil Gallery; Gordon Cook, Fuchsia, Iris, Geraniums, Daisy, 1985, etching, 19 3/4 x 16 1/4; John Taylor Arms, 42nd Street at Night, n.d., etching and aquatint, 10 1/2 x 6 3/4 inches, purchased through the R. H. Norton Fund; Lester Johnson, Milford Figure, etching, 1st state, 24 1/2 x 18 inches, gift of Robert L. Burnham


rev. 11/26/10

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2010 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.