Relief Wood Etching

Wood Etching

Dating back to the 14th century…

The origins of relief etching date back to the end of the 14th century to relief wood engraving. At the time, European artists engraved wooden plates to create images ranging from religious icons to playing cards.

This technique consists of hollowing out of the wooden plate, normally made of walnut, pear, apple or even cherry wood, the intended white parts of the drawn pattern. This was done with the help of gouges or penknives. The image in relief on the wooden plate was “spared” and the ink applied onto the plate would coat the spared parts of the pattern and not the hollowed parts.

Wood Etching

The artist would then apply a sheet of paper to the inked wooden plate and press over the reverse of the sheet so that the pattern, in this case the inked parts, would be transferred onto paper. This process prepared the ground for engraving. Albrecht Dürer was a real expert of this technique during the 15th and 16th centuries. The “Apocalypse” cycle, one of the treasures of German art, created by Dürer between 1497 and 1498 was a series of wood engravings inspired by John the Apostle and gave birth to the first book conceived and published by an artist. We can find a print by A. Jary made from this engraving in the house of Marie-Henry, in the small Breton village of Pouldu (Finistère), where Gauguin lived at the end of the 19th century.

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