Archive for February, 2016

Textures in Aquatint

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Aquatint, which is an intaglio printmaking technique (generally in copper or zinc) is used to add tonal quality to a composition.  Instead of using lines, like it is done in straightforward etching, aquatint provides the ability to give prints “grayscale”.  While it was often used in black and white printmaking, it really came to life as a technique in color printmaking.  It remains today, for those inclined to create “painterly” prints, a technique of choice.

Personally, what attracts me to aquatint, is the texture.  Not only are the colors, or black, saturated; the overall compositions also feels fare more dimensional than it is in lithography, or with a silkscreen.  The fact that the plate embosses the sheet, and that the ink is raised above the surface of the paper, lends aquatints a strength that cannot be replicated in most printmaking techniques.  It is, in that sense, comparable to strong woodcuts, which will also emboss the paper, and leave clear traces of the matrix used to create the image.

I enlarged a few aquatints, for close inspection.  Note the “dots”, or ink “puddles”.  The latticework of the resin, which is cooked onto the plate before being etched, is very discernible; and its dimensionality is eye-catching.

While there are a few informative videos online showing what aquatint really is, I find that nothing completely satisfies my curiosity.  In the end, Wikipedia’s entry is still the most informative, in my opinion.

Portrait of Anatole France by Edgar Chahine

Monday, February 8th, 2016


Edgar CHAHINE (1874-1947)
Anatole France
Drypoint on tan Arches laid paper, 1900.
Reference: Tabanelli 41 i/ii.  Artist’s proof from the first state of two, aside from an edition of 40.
Before the plate was cut down in the second state, and printed in a small edition as such.
Signed and annotated “à Monsieur Roger-Marx – bien respectueusement” in pencil.
Provenance: Roger Marx, with his monogram stamp (Lugt 2229).
Plate: 9 ¾ x 15 inches.

This is a portrait of the famous French author Anatole France.  The friendship that tied Chahine to Anatole France was very much predicated on the fact that France spoke up for the Armenian cause at a time when most politician fell silent.  Anatole France is also one of the most vocal defendants of human rights in his time, having invented the word “xenophobe”!  The fact that he defended Dreyfus, and that he denounced the Armenian ethnic cleansing, is what brought these men together.  They remained friends all of their lives.  Photos of Chahine, and his wife, spending time at the home of an elder France, along with his wife, have survived.

This impression comes from the collection of Roger-Marx, without a question one of the most influential art critics of the time in Paris.  Chahine specifically signed and annotated this impression when he gave it to the art critic.  Roger-Marx then stamped it with his collector mark.  As early as 1900, Roger-Marx gives Chahine glorious marks for his paintings.  In an article in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts he comments on Chahine’s focus on “the drama of reality, rather than on the enchantment of dreams”.  Having barely lived in Paris for four years, such an endorsement was certainly critical to Chahine’s career.  The fact that the early paintings seen by Roger-Marx show the toils of the poor, rather than the riches of the wealthy, stresses the fact that Chahine has been sensitive to the suffering he certainly witnessed in Constantinople.  As such these themes connect him to the Armenian suffering.

This particular impression, of this particular composition, is a work at the crossroads of artist’s career.  It ties his past, in the shared passion with Anatole France for Armenia, with the future provided by the endorsement of Roger-Marx.

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