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Art Terminology


Acid-Free Used to describe matting, paper or storage materials that do not contain acids that can cause discoloration or deterioration.

After Done in the style of a particular artist by other than that artist. If the artist had no creation or supervision and had no involvement at all with the pulling of a limited edition, then each piece in the edition would be considered as "after" the artist. (it does not connote after the artist's death).

Aquatint A process for producing tone etchings, so named because the finished print resembles watercolor drawings in quality. The ordinary bitten line of etching is combined with a delicate tone or tint produced by etching the copper plate with acid through a protective resist. This resist, or ground, is laid by flooding the copper plate with dissolved powdered resin, or by inserting the copper plate in a dust box. Using the dust box method, the coating of resin dust has to be fastened to the plate by heating it. From this stage on the process is similar to etching. Those parts of the design which are to be left white are protected with an acid resistant material such as varnish, or are "stopped out", and the rest of the plate is bitten. Varying tonal effects are achieved by repeated varnishing and immersion. After preparation of the plate, the edition is pulled as would be in other etching techniques.

Artist's Proof Abbreviated "A.P." A portion of the total number of impressions or pieces in a limited edition are usually designated "A.P." Generally, the entire edition is pulled (printed) one color at a time, and only after the entire edition has been pulled, the artist will then sign and number the pieces. Consequently, artist's proofs are no different than any other impressions within the edition. Often, there is a false belief that pieces designated as artist's proofs are it worth" more or are more "valuable" than other pieces in the edition.

Atelier This is the workshop, where an edition is pulled or printed. (from the French word meaning "studio", pronounced "a telyea".)

Bas-Relief A hanging wall sculpture, in which the image is raised from the background. Pronounced "ba relief'.

Benday Dots When viewed under slight magnification, a print that has been produced using a half-tone screen will show a dot pattern. These benday dots are what give the various shades of tone and density to the print. (Named for its inventor, Benjamin Day, in the early 1900's.)

Biting In etching and aquatint, the immersion of a prepared copper or zinc plate in acid, which "bites" into the exposed metal. When printed, the bitten areas will be visible.

Burin A tool, usually hard steel, used to draw on etching or engraving plates.

Carborundum Another name for silicon carbide, carborundum is a abrasive substance sometimes used to build up the surface of a metal plate. When the plate is pressed against dampened paper, the raised carborundum areas leave a craggy, relief impression on the paper.

Catalogue Raisonne' A complete, annotated catalog of the works of a particular artist. Considered as the definitive source, providing details such as title, medium, date, print and image size, edition size, publishers and printers. Pronounced "res-o-nay."

Chine Colle' A method of selectively adhering one sheet of paper to another during or after the printing process.

Chop Mark An insignia of the printer or publisher, usually a small embossed seal of the printer's name and logo. Most often visible in the lower right or lower left near the edge of the paper.

Collotype A reproduction which, though made by a photomechanical printing process, is not broken up by half-tone screens so the resultant image is continuous tone. Color separation negatives are made from the original work of art, then are retouched to build up the desired density and graduation of tones. The negatives are then exposed onto a light sensitive aluminum plate, and the plate is then run on a press. A separate negative and plate are made for each color (not be be confused with collograph).

Deckle Edge The ragged edge found on some papers.

Diptych A work of art composed of two separate pieces, usually displayed together side by side, producing one continuous image. Pronounced "dip-tic".

Drypoint, Drypoint Engraving A process of engraving upon a copper plate with a burin, scoring deeply into the plate, creating a furrow bordered by rough, upturned edges (the burr), which hold the ink. In line engraving, the slight burr made by the burin is removed, but in drypoint engraving the burr is left. Therefore, prints taken from a drypoint engraving have a special velvety black line.

Edition Refers to the total number of prints made from the same plates or screens, such as "there are 250 prints in this edition".

Embossing A method of raising a design in relief on metal or paper through the use of mechanical dies or punches or plates.

Etching A process by which graphics are taken from a metal plate, on which the drawing is bitten with acid into the surface of the plate. A clean polished copper plate (or occasionally zinc or steel), is covered with a thin coating of acid-resisting etching ground. The drawing to be reproduced is either traced onto the blackened surface of the grounded plate, or is drawn directly onto the surface, using the burin, which exposes the metal in the drawn areas. The edges and back of the plate are then coated with an acid-resistant varnish and it is then immersed in a bath of acid which attacks the metal where it is exposed. When the lightest parts are bitten to the artist's liking, the plate is taken out of the acid and the work stopped out with varnish. The process can then be repeated until the work is completed to the artist's satisfaction. The ground and varnish are then removed with a solvent and the plate is then inked. Ink is applied to the entire surface and then carefully rubbed off, leaving the ink in the bitten areas. Impressions are made on damp paper, which is forced into the ink filled lines as the paper and plate are put through a pressure press.

Epreuve d'Artiste French term meaning "approved by the artist. " Abbreviated as "E.A.", it means the same as artist's proof.

Foxing Discoloration of paper by mildew of micro-organisms, due to dampness or bad preservation.

Giclée A computerized reproduction technique in which the image and topology are generated from a digital file and printed by a special ink let printer, using ink, acrylic or oil paints. Giclée printing offers one of the highest degree of accuracy and richness of color available in any reproduction techniques.
Gilding Covering a surface with gold leaf.

Gouache Painting with watercolors made opaque by the addition of white pigment or sizing. Unlike watercolors, gouache does not allow the whiteness of the paper to show through the paint (from the French term meaning opaque watercolor)

Graphic A term usually used to describe a print made by lithography, silkscreening, or etching. As in, "this is a graphic work by Hockney" or "we carry graphic works by some of the best artists in the world".

Hatching The building up of an effect of tone by a series of close parallel lines. Crosshatching consists of a series of parallel lines, crossed by others at right angles. Usually a technique used in etching.

HMP Abbreviation meaning "hand made paper".

Hors Commerce French term meaning outside of business or not for commerce. Abbreviated as "H.C.". Referring to a portion of a limited edition that is not meant for sale. In recent times, the H.C. designation has simply become another portion of the total edition breakdown. Prints designated H.C. are readily sold, and have no higher (or lower) "value" than any other prints within the edition.

Impasto Thick application of ink or paint on a surface.

Impression Any print taken from an engraved block, plate or stone.

Intaglio Meaning "beneath the surface". Forms, marks, or lines that are hollowed, sunk or drawn into the surface instead of being raised upon it. Etching and engraving are intaglio processes. Pronounced "in-tal-eo" from Italian, "to incise".

Linocut The full term is linoleum cut. A surface printing process similar to woodcutting. The image is dug into the linoleum (linoleum is a hard, smooth washable floor covering made of a mixture of ground cork, wood, and linseed oil, first manufactured around 1860) with the areas not to be printed being cut away. The block is then inked and paper is pressed down on the linoleum. Colors can be added by using different blocks, or altering the one block and re-inking.

Lithography A surface printing process based on the mutual incompatibility of grease and water. (derived from the Greek term lithos meaning stone and grapho, meaning to write.) A greasy crayon is used to draw the design on the surface of a porous stone. More modern methods use disposable aluminum plates instead of the original limestone blocks. The stone is then thoroughly wetted and an oil based ink rolled across its surface. Where the greasy design has repelled the water, the ink will adhere. Paper is then pressed onto the stone. Each print in the edition usually requires re-wetting and re-inking the stone or plate.

Lost Wax A method of casting bronze sculpture. From the artist's model, a rubber mold is made. The mold is then filled with wax, allowed to cool and then the mold is pulled off leaving an exact rendition of the model in wax. This wax rendition is then stuccoed with a sand-like material until successive layers produce a heat tolerant ceramic shell of sufficient strength to withstand the weight of the molten bronze. Then the shell with the wax print inside is heated, the wax is melted out (thus, the lost wax process) and the molten bronze can be poured in. After the bronze has cooled, the shell is chipped away and the sculpture is then sand blasted and hand finished to its ultimate perfection. The lost wax process is considered the highest quality method of producing limited edition bronze sculpture.

Maquette A small clay or wax example for a large sculpture, or a sketch model for sculpture or stained glass windows.

Medium In general, the process employed by the artist, such as etching, silkscreening, painting, etc. that is used to create the work of art.

Mezzotint A process of engraving in which the design is produced by scraping the half tones and highlights from a specially roughened black printing surface. The copper plate is first roughened with a rocker, ( a tool with a wide, curved, serrated edge) which is used to rock the surface of the plate uniformly at a number of different angles causing an even burr, which holds the ink and makes it possible to print a rich, velvety black. The artist then scrapes out with a rnezzotint scraper those areas of his design which he desires to print in a lighter tone, or completely rubs the burr out for those areas to be printed white.

Mixed Media Generally, when an artist has used more than one medium in creating the work. As an example, a lithograph with etching would be considered a mixed media.

Museum Mount, or Museum Framing The safest method of hinging, matting and framing artwork that utilizes only acid-free materials.

Offset Printing Lithographic printing which is done not directly from the lithographic plate. Offset printing is usually considered to be a photo-mechanical process.

Original Considered as a work of art conceived and produced solely by the artist, or under his direct supervision. Graphic works such as lithographs, silkscreens, etchings, etc, are considered to be "original multiples" as the finished print is the only manifestation of such work.

Patina The surface color on metal sculpture.

Plate Mark The indented impression on the damp paper made by the etched plate when passed through the press. Prints taken from wood blocks or lithographic stones seldom show impressions of this kind.

Primary Colors Yellow, red and blue, which, when mixed, yield all other colors but can not themselves be produced by any combination of colors.

Print Any impression taken on paper (or silk, canvas or any other material) from any kind of plate or block, worked either by hand or by photomechanical means.

Provenance The pedigree, or history of ownership, of a work of art.
Publisher's Proof Designated as "P.P.", it is simply a portion of the total number of prints in an edition. They are sometimes retained by the publisher, although often are available for sale. Prints designated as "Publisher's Proof" have no higher (or lower) "value" than any other prints within the edition. The "P.P." can also mean "printer's proof".

Rag Board Matboard Made form 100% cotton, 100% acid-free, used in museum mounting and framing. (At one time, rag board was actually made from cotton rags).

Remarque A small unique drawing or painting made by the artist, usually in the margin area of one of his limited editions prints. Remarque prints usually sell at a higher price. Pronounced simply as re-mark.

Silkscreen or Serigraph A printing process which involves the use of various screens or stencils. The design is drawn on the screen (at one time silk was the general material of choice, before technology provided better materials at less cost) and is either cut out (stencil) or stopped out with varnish. Ink or paint is then wiped or squeegee across the screen, and penetrates to the paper placed immediately below the screen. Different colors usually require the use of different screens, with the many colors being built up on the paper with each successive squeegee of ink or paint.

Signed in the Stone or Plate When the artist's signature is printed along with the image. After creating the image on the plates or stones, the artist will then "sign in the stone" and then the edition is pulled. Not the same as the hand-signature of the artist.

Soft-ground Etching An etching process which produces a print with a quality of line and tone resembling a pencil or chalk drawing. A soft, acid-resisting ground is laid on the metal plate. The design is then drawn with a sharp pencil upon thin paper stretched over the ground plate. This causes the ground to adhere to the paper where it has been pressed down with the pencil. Thus, when the paper is removed, the metal is left exposed in somewhat irregular or ragged lines. The plate is then immersed in acid, the drawing is bitten into the plate, and then prints are pulled in the standard procedure.

State A term applied to the stages in making an etching, lithograph, etc. As the work progresses, the artist pulls proofs in order to examine condition or effect.

Suite When two or more images are published or released together, the grouping is referred to as a suite, as in "this is a suite of four pieces."

Tirage French term meaning "output." To have the tirage of a limited edition work is to have full information concerning the total number of prints in an edition, the date and workshop where completed as well as how the total edition is broken down. As an example, the tirage of a print could be: 1-300 + I-CL + 1-30 A.P. + 1-20 H.C.; printed in 1988 at Chromacomp in New York.

Triptych A work of art composed of three separate pieces, usually displayed together. Pronounced "trip-tick".

Unique In art terms, meaning one-of-a-kind. A painting could be described as unique, but a limited edition should not.

Watermark A translucent name or design molded into the paper during the manufacturing process, usually in the border area; more visible when held up to a light.

Woodcut One of the earliest forms of printmaking, in which the design is carved in wood, with the areas not to be printed being cut away. The block is then inked and paper is pressed down on the woodblock. Colors can be added by using different blocks, or altering the one block and re-inking.

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