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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses of etch or etching, see Etching (disambiguation), for the history of the method, see old master prints.
The Soldier and his Wife. Etching by Daniel Hopfer, who is believed to have been the first to apply the technique to printmaking

Etching is the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design in intaglio in the metal (the original process—in modern manufacturing other chemicals may be used on other types of material). As an intaglio method of printmaking it is, along with engraving, the most important technique for old master prints, and remains widely used today.


Basic method

Rembrandt, The Virgin and Child with a Cat, 1654. Original copper etching plate above, example of the print below, with composition reversed.

In pure etching, a metal (usually copper, zinc or steel) plate is covered with a waxy ground which is resistant to acid[2]. The artist then scratches off the ground with a pointed etching needle[3] where he wants a line to appear in the finished piece, so exposing the bare metal. The échoppe, a tool with a slanted oval section is also used for "swelling" lines.[4] The plate is then dipped in a bath of acid, technically called the mordant (French for "biting") or etchant, or has acid washed over it.[5] The acid "bites" into the metal, where it is exposed, leaving behind lines sunk into the plate. The remaining ground is then cleaned off the plate. The plate is inked all over, and then the ink wiped off the surface, leaving only the ink in the etched lines.

The plate is then put through a high-pressure printing press together with a sheet of paper (often moistened to soften it).[1] The paper picks up the ink from the etched lines, making a print. The process can be repeated many times; typically several hundred impressions (copies) could be printed before the plate shows much sign of wear. The work on the plate can also be added to by repeating the whole process; this creates an etching which exists in more than one state.

Etching has often been combined with other intaglio techniques such as engraving (e.g. Rembrandt) or aquatint (e.g. Goya).


Christ Preaching, known as The Hundred Guilder print; etching c1648 by Rembrandt.


Etching by goldsmiths and other metal-workers in order to decorate metal items such as guns, armour, cups and plates has been known in Europe since the Middle Ages at least, and may go back to antiquity. The elaborate decoration of armour, in Germany anyway, was an art probably imported from Italy around the end of the 15th century—little earlier than the birth of etching as a printmaking technique. The process as applied to printmaking is believed to have been invented by Daniel Hopfer (circa 1470–1536) of Augsburg, Germany. Hopfer was a craftsman who decorated armour in this way, and applied the method to printmaking, using iron plates (many of which still exist). Apart from his prints, there are two proven examples of his work on armour: a shield from 1536 now in the Real Armeria of Madrid and a sword in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum of Nuremberg. An Augsburg horse armour in the German Historical Museum, Berlin, dating to between 1512 and 1515, is decorated with motifs from Hopfer's etchings and woodcuts, but this is no evidence that Hopfer himself worked on it, as his decorative prints were largely produced as patterns for other craftsmen in various media. The switch to copper plates was probably made in Italy, and thereafter etching soon came to challenge engraving as the most popular medium for artists in printmaking. Its great advantage was that, unlike engraving which requires special skill in metalworking, etching is relatively easy to learn for an artist trained in drawing.

Callot's innovations: échoppe, hard ground, stopping-out

Jacques Callot (1592–1635) from Nancy in Lorraine (now part of France) made important technical advances in etching technique. He developed the échoppe, a type of etching-needle with a slanting oval section at the end, which enabled etchers to create a swelling line, as engravers were able to do.

Etching by Jacques Bellange, Gardener with basket c1612

He also seems to have been responsible for an improved, harder, recipe for the etching ground, using lute-makers' varnish rather than a wax-based formula. This enabled lines to be more deeply bitten, prolonging the life of the plate in printing, and also greatly reducing the risk of "foul-biting", where acid gets through the ground to the plate where it is not intended to, producing spots or blotches on the image. Previously the risk of foul-biting had always been at the back of an etcher's mind, preventing him from investing too much time on a single plate that risked being ruined in the biting process. Now etchers could do the highly detailed work that was previously the monopoly of engravers, and Callot made full use of the new possibilities.

He also made more extensive and sophisticated use of multiple "stoppings-out" than previous etchers had done. This is the technique of letting the acid bite lightly over the whole plate, then stopping-out those parts of the work which the artist wishes to keep light in tone by covering them with ground before bathing the plate in acid again. He achieved unprecedented subtlety in effects of distance and light and shade by careful control of this process. Most of his prints were relatively small—up to about six inches or 15 cm on their longest dimension, but packed with detail.

One of his followers, the Parisian Abraham Bosse, spread Callot's innovations all over Europe with the first published manual of etching, which was translated into Italian, Dutch, German and English.

The 17th century was the great age of etching, with Rembrandt, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and many other masters. In the 18th Piranesi, Tiepolo and Daniel Chodowiecki were the best of a smaller number of fine etchers. In the 19th and early-20th century the Etching revival produced a host of lesser artists, but no really major figures. Etching is still widely practiced today.

Variants: aquatint, soft-ground and relief etching

Relief etching by William Blake, self-portrait from Songs of Innocence and Experience, published 1794. Digitally restored.
  • Aquatint uses acid-resistant resin to achieve tonal effects.
  • Soft-ground etching uses a special softer ground. The artist places a piece of paper (or cloth etc in modern uses) over the ground and draws on it. The print resembles a drawing.
  • Relief etching. Invented by William Blake in about 1788; from 1880–1950 a photo-mechanical ("line-block") variant was the dominant form of commercial printing for images. A similar process to etching, but printed as a relief print, so it is the "white" background areas which are exposed to the acid, and the areas to print "black" which are covered with ground. Blake's exact technique remains controversial. He used the technique to print texts and images together.

Modern technique in detail

Landscape under Trees, etching by Paula Modersohn-Becker 1876–1907

A waxy acid-resist, known as a ground, is applied to a metal plate, most often copper or zinc but steel plate is another medium with different qualities. There are two common types of ground: hard ground and soft ground.

Hard ground can be applied in two ways. Solid hard ground comes in a hard waxy block. To apply hard ground of this variety, the plate to be etched is placed upon a hot-plate (set at 70 degrees C), a kind of metal worktop that is heated up. The plate heats up and the ground is applied by hand, melting onto the plate as it is applied. The ground is spread over the plate as evenly as possible using a roller. Once applied the etching plate is removed from the hot-plate and allowed to cool which hardens the ground.

After the ground has hardened the artist "smokes" the plate, classically with 3 beeswax tapers, applying the flame to the plate to darken the ground and make it easier to see what parts of the plate are exposed. Smoking not only darkens the plate but adds a small amount of wax. Afterwards the artist uses a sharp tool to scratch into the ground, exposing the metal.

The second way to apply hard ground is by liquid hard ground. This comes in a can and is applied with a brush upon the plate to be etched. Exposed to air the hard ground will harden. Some printmakers use bitumen as hard ground, although often bitumen is used to protect steel plates from rust and copper plates from aging.

Soft ground also comes in liquid form and is allowed to dry but it does not dry hard like hard ground and is impressionable. After the soft ground has dried the printmaker may apply materials such as leaves, objects, hand prints and so on which will penetrate the soft ground and expose the plate underneath.

The ground can also be applied in a fine mist, using powdered rosin or spraypaint. This process is called aquatint, and allows for the creation of tones, shadows, and solid areas of color.

The design is then drawn (in reverse) with an etching-needle or échoppe. An "echoppe" point can be made from an ordinary tempered steel etching needle, by grinding the point back on a carborundum stone, at a 45–60 degree angle. The "echoppe" works on the same principle that makes a fountain pen's line more attractive than a ballpoint's: The slight swelling variation caused by the natural movement of the hand "warms up" the line, and although hardly noticeable in any individual line, has a very attractive overall effect on the finished plate. It can be drawn with in the same way as an ordinary needle

The plate is then completely submerged in an acid that eats away at the exposed metal. Ferric chloride may be used for etching copper or zinc plates, whereas nitric acid may be used for etching zinc or steel plates. Typical solutions are 2 parts FeCl3 to 2 parts water and 1 part nitric to 3 parts water. The strength of the acid determines the speed of the etching process.

  • The etching process is known as biting (see also spit-biting below).
  • The waxy resist prevents the acid from biting the parts of the plate which have been covered.
  • The longer the plate remains in the acid the deeper the "bites" become.
Example of etching

During the etching process the printmaker uses a bird feather or similar item to wave away bubbles and detritus produced by the dissolving process, from the surface of the plate, or the plate may be periodically lifted from the acid bath. If a bubble is allowed to remain on the plate then it will stop the acid biting into the plate where the bubble touches it. Zinc produces more bubbles much more rapidly than copper and steel and some artists use this to produce interesting round bubble-like circles within their prints for a Milky Way effect.

The detritus is powdery dissolved metal that fills the etched grooves and can also block the acid from biting evenly into the exposed plate surfaces. Another way to remove detritus from a plate is to place the plate to be etched face down within the acid upon plasticine balls or marbles, although the drawback of this technique is the exposure to bubbles and the inability to remove them readily.

For aquatinting a printmaker will often use a test strip of metal about a centimetre to three centimetres wide. The strip will be dipped into the acid for a specific number of minutes or seconds. The metal strip will then be removed and the acid washed off with water. Part of the strip will be covered in ground and then the strip is redipped into the acid and the process repeated. The ground will then be removed from the strip and the strip inked up and printed. This will show the printmaker the different degrees or depths of the etch, and therefore the strength of the ink color, based upon how long the plate is left in the acid.

The plate is removed from the acid and washed over with water to remove the acid. The ground is removed with a solvent such as turpentine. Turpentine is often removed from the plate using methylated spirits since turpentine is greasy and can affect the application of ink and the printing of the plate.

Spit-biting is a process whereby the printmaker will apply acid to a plate with a brush in certain areas of the plate. The plate may be aquatinted for this purpose or exposed directly to the acid. The process is known as "spit"-biting due to the use of saliva once used as a medium to dilute the acid, although gum arabic or water are now commonly used.

Pornocrates by Félicien Rops. Etching and aquatint

A piece of matte board, a plastic "card", or a wad of cloth is often used to push the ink into the incised lines. The surface is wiped clean with a piece of stiff fabric known as tarlatan and then either wiped with newsprint paper; some printmakers prefer to use the blade part of their hand or palm at the base of their thumb. The wiping leaves ink in the incisions. You may also use a folded piece of organza silk to do the final wipe. If copper or zinc plates are used plate surface is left very clean and therefore white in the print. If steel plate is used then the plate's natural tooth gives the print a grey background similar to the effects of aquatinting. As a result steel plates do not need aquatinting as gradual exposure of the plate via successive dips into acid will produce the same result.

A damp piece of paper is placed over the plate and it is run through the press.

Non-toxic etching

Growing concerns about the health effects of acids and solvents led to the development of less toxic etching methods in the late 20th century. An early innovation was the use of floor wax as a hard ground for coating the plate. Others, such as printmakers Mark Zaffron and Keith Howard, developed systems using acrylic polymers as a ground and ferric chloride for etching. The polymers are removed with sodium carbonate (washing soda) solution, rather than solvents. When used for etching, ferric chloride does not produce a corrosive gas, as acids do, thus eliminating another danger of traditional etching.

The traditional aquatint, which uses either powdered rosin or enamel spray paint, is replaced with an airbrush application of the acrylic polymer hard ground. Again, no solvents are needed beyond the soda ash solution, though a ventilation hood is needed due to acrylic particulates from the air brush spray.

The traditional soft ground, requiring solvents for removal from the plate, is replaced with water-based relief printing ink. The ink receives impressions like traditional soft ground, resists the ferric chloride etchant, yet can be cleaned up with warm water and either soda ash solution or ammonia. Etching is a form of art which is taught in many ways.

Anodic etching has been used in industrial processes for over a century. The etching power is a source of direct current. The item to be etched (anode) is connected to its positive pole. A receiver plate (cathode) is connected to its negative pole. Both, spaced slightly apart, are immersed in a suitable aqueous solution of a suitable electrolyte. The current pushes the metal out from the anode into solution and deposits it as metal on the cathode. Shortly before 1990, two groups working independently [2][3] developed different ways of applying it to creating intaglio printing plates.

In the patented [4][5] Electroetch system, invented by Marion and Omri Behr, in contrast to certain non toxic etching methods, an etched plate can be reworked as often as the artist desires [6][7][8][9] The system uses voltages below 2 volts which exposes the uneven metal crystals in the etched areas resulting in superior ink retention and printed image appearance of quality equivalent to traditional acid methods. With polarity reversed the low voltage provides a simpler method of making mezzotint plates as well as the “steel facing” [10] copper plates.


Monserrate Palace, etching by Nathaniel Nguyen 1975–present

Light sensitive polymer plates allow for photorealistic etchings. A photo-sensitive coating is applied to the plate by either the plate supplier or the artist. Light is projected onto the plate as a negative image to expose it. Photopolymer plates are either washed in hot water or under other chemicals according to the plate manufacturers' instructions. Areas of the photo-etch image may be stopped-out before etching to exclude them from the final image on the plate, or removed or lightened by scraping and burnishing once the plate has been etched. Once the photo-etching process is complete, the plate can be worked further as a normal intaglio plate, using drypoint, further etching, engraving, etc. The final result is an intaglio plate which is printed like any other.

Types of metal plates

Copper was always the traditional metal, and is still preferred, for etching, as it bites evenly, holds texture well, and does not distort the colour of the ink when wiped. Zinc is cheaper than copper, so preferable for beginners, but it does not bite as cleanly as copper, and it alters some colours of ink. Steel is growing in popularity as an etching substrate. Prices of copper and zinc have steered steel to an acceptable alternative. Line quality of steel is less fine than copper but finer than zinc. Steel has a natural and rich aquatint. Steel is virtually impossible to reclaim though the price and availability make it still more cost effective.

Industrial uses

Etching is also used in the manufacturing of printed circuit boards and semiconductor devices (see Etching (microfabrication) ), on glass, and in the preparation of metallic specimens for microscopic observation.

Controlling the acid's effects

Hard grounds

Young Girl in cafe with street-view, etching by Lesser Ury 1861–1931

There are many ways for the printmaker to control the acid's effects. Most typically, the surface of the plate is covered in a hard, waxy 'ground' that resists acid. The printmaker then scratches through the ground with a sharp point, exposing lines of metal that are attacked by the acid.


Aquatint is a variation in which particulate resin is evenly distributed on the plate, then heated to form a screen ground of uniform but less than perfect density. After etching, any exposed surface will result in a roughened (i.e. darkened) surface. Areas that are to be light in the final print are protected by varnishing between acid baths. Successive turns of varnishing and placing the plate in acid create areas of tone difficult or impossible to achieve by drawing through a wax ground.


This is an etching technique invented in 2006 by the U.S. printmaker Rand Huebsch. Tiny particles of carborundum grit are mixed into the acid-resistant ground, which is brushed onto the bare metal as usual and allowed to dry. When that mixture has dried, the metal stylus is used on the plate and thereby removes some of the grit particles, so that minuscule areas of copper are exposed to the acid and etched; they will eventually hold the ink for the printing process. Thus the image on paper has a texture similar to that of a charcoal drawing.


Printing the plate is done by covering the surface with ink, then rubbing the ink off the surface with tarlatan cloth or newsprint, leaving ink in the roughened areas and lines. Damp paper is placed on the plate, and both are run through a printing press; the pressure forces the paper into contact with the ink, transferring the image (c.f., chine-collé). Unfortunately, the pressure also subtly degrades the image in the plate, smoothing the roughened areas and closing the lines; a copper plate is good for, at most, a few hundred printings of a strongly etched imaged before the degradation is considered too great by the artist. At that point, the artist can manually restore the plate by re-etching it, essentially putting ground back on and retracing their lines; alternately, plates can be electro-plated before printing with a harder metal to preserve the surface. Zinc is also used, because as a softer metal, etching times are shorter; however, that softness also leads to faster degradation of the image in the press.


Faux-bite or "over-biting" is common in etching, and is the effect of minuscule amounts of acid leaking through the ground to create minor pitting and burning on the surface. This incidental roughening may be removed by smoothing and polishing the surface, but artists often leave faux-bite, or deliberately court it by handling the plate roughly, because it is viewed as a desirable mark of the process.

"Etchings" cliché

The phrase "Want to come up and see my etchings?" is a romantic cliché in which a man entices a woman to come back to his place with an offer to look at something artistic. This was referenced in a James Thurber cartoon where a man tells a woman in a building lobby: "You wait here and I'll bring the etchings down".[11] Also in Dashiell Hammett's 1934 novel The Thin Man, where the narrator answers his wife asking him about a lady he had wandered off with, "She just wanted to show me some French etchings."[12]

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Behr, Marion; Behr, Omri (1991). "Environmentally safe Etching". Chem Tech 21 (#4): 210-.  
  3. ^ Semenoff, Nick; C. Christos (1991). "Using Dry Copier Toners in Intaglio and Electro-Etching of metal Plates". Leonardo 24 (#4): 389–394.  
  4. ^ Behr, Marion & Omri Behr, "Electrolytic etching process and apparatus therefor.", US The voltage should be adjustable to operate accurately within a rather narrow voltage range, such that the minimum voltage shall be at least that of the ionization potential of the metal of the metal object in the electrolyte chosen and the maximum shall not substantially exceed the sum of the decomposition voltage of the aqueous electrolyte and the over-voltage of the cathode selected. 5102520, issued 04.07.1992
  5. ^ Behr, Omri & Marion Behr, "Method and apparatus for producing etched plates for graphic printing", US 5112453, issued 05.12.1992
  6. ^ Behr, Marion; Behr, Omri (1993), "Etching and Tone Creation Using Low-Voltage Anodic Electrolysis", Leonardo 26 (#1): 53-  
  7. ^ Behr, Marion (1993), "Electroetch, a safe etching system", Printmaking Today 3 (#1): 18-  
  8. ^ Behr, Marion (1995), "Electroetch II", Printmaking Today 4 (#4): 24-  
  9. ^ Behr, Marion; Behr, Omri (1998), "Setting the record straight", Printmaking Today 7 (4): 31–32  
  10. ^ Behr, Omri (1997), "An improved method for steelfacing copper etching plates", Leonardo 30 (#1): 47  
  11. ^
  12. ^ Hammett, Dashiell, The Thin Man, (1934) in Five Complete Novels, New York: Avanel Books, 1980, p. 592.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ETCHING (Dutch, etsen, to eat), a form of engraving in which, in contradistinction to line engraving, where the furrow is produced by the ploughing of the burin, the copper is eaten away or corroded by acid.

To prepare a plate for etching it is first covered with etchingground, a composition which resists acid. The qualities of a ground are to be so adhesive that it will not quit the copper when a small quantity is left isolated between lines, yet not so adhesive that the etching point cannot easily and entirely remove it; at the same time a good ground will be hard enough to bear the: hand upon it, or a sheet of paper, yet not so hard as to be brittle. The ground used by Abraham Bosse, the French painter and engraver (1602-1676) was composed as follows: - Melt 2 oz. of white wax; then add to it 1 oz. of gum-mastic in powder, a little at a time, stirring till the wax and the mastic are well mingled; then add, in the same manner, 1 oz. of bitumen in powder. There are three different ways of applying an etchingground to a plate. The old-fashioned way was to wrap a ball of the ground in silk, heat the plate, and then rub the ball upon the surface, enough of the ground to cover the plate melting through the silk. To equalize the ground a dabber was used, which was made of cotton-wool under horsehair, the whole inclosed in silk. This method is still used by many artists, from tradition and habit, but it is far inferior in perfection and convenience to that which we will now describe. When the etching-ground is melted, add to it half its volume of essential oil of lavender, mix well, and allow the mixture to cool. You have now a paste which can be spread upon a cold plate with a roller; these rollers are covered with leather and made (very carefully) for the purpose. You first spread a little paste on a sheet of glass (if too thick, add more oil of lavender and mix with a palette knife), and roll it till the roller is quite equally charged all over, when the paste is easily transferred to the copper, which is afterwards gently heated to expel the oil of lavender. In both these methods of grounding a plate, the work is not completed until the ground has been smoked, which is effected as follows. The plate is held by a hand-vice if a small one, or if large, is fixed at some height, with the covered side downwards. A smoking torch, composed of many thin bees-wax dips twisted together, is then lighted and passed repeatedly under the plate in every direction, till the ground has incorporated enough lampblack to blacken it. The third way of covering a plate for etching is to apply the ground in solution as collodion is applied by photographers. The ground may be dissolved in chloroform, or in oil of lavender. The plate being grounded, its back and edges are protected from the acid by Japan varnish, which soon dries, and then the drawing is traced upon it. The best way of tracing a drawing is to use sheet gelatine, which is employed as follows. The gelatine is laid upon the drawing, which its transparence allows you to see perfectly, and you trace the lines by scratching the smooth surface with a sharp point. You then fill these scratches with fine black-lead, in powder, rubbing it in with the finger, turn the tracing with its face to the plate, and rub the back of it with a burnisher. The black-lead from the scratches adheres to the etching ground and shows upon it as pale grey, much more visible than anything else you can use for tracing. Then comes the work of the etching-needle, which is merely a piece of steel sharpened more or less. J. M. W. Turner used a prong of an old steel fork which did as well as anything, but neater etching-needles are sold by artists' colourmakers. The needle removes the ground or cover and lays the copper bare. Some artists sharpen their needles so as to present a cutting edge which, when used sideways, scrapes away a broad line; and many etchers use needles of various degrees of sharpness to get thicker or thinner lines. It may be well to observe, in connexion with this part of the subject, that whilst thick lines agree perfectly well with the nature of woodcut, they are very apt to give an unpleasant heaviness to plate engraving of all kinds, whilst thin lines have generally a clear and agreeable appearance in plate engraving. Nevertheless, lines of moderate thickness are used effectively in etching when covered with finer shading, and very thick lines indeed were employed with good results by Turner when he intended to cover them with mezzotint, and to print in brown ink, because their thickness was essential to prevent them from being overwhelmed by the mezzotint, and the brown ink made them print less heavily than black. Etchers differ in opinion as to whether the needle ought to scratch the copper or simply to glide upon its surface. A gliding needle is much more free, and therefore communicates a greater appearance of freedom to the etching, but it has the inconvenience that the etching-ground may not always be entirely removed, and then the lines may be defective from insufficient biting. A scratching needle, on the other hand, is free from this serious inconvenience, but it must not scratch irregularly so as to engrave lines of various depth. The biting in former times was generally done with a mixture of nitric acid and water, in equal proportions; but in the present day a Dutch mordant is a good deal used, which is composed as follows: Hydrochloric acid, zoo grammes; chlorate of potash, 20 grammes; water, 880 grammes. To make it, heat the water, add the chlorate of potash, wait till it is entirely dissolved, and then add the acid. The nitrous mordant acts rapidly and causes ebullition; the Dutch mordant acts slowly and causes no ebullition. The nitrous mordant widens the lines; the Dutch mordant bites in depth, and does not widen the lines to any perceptible degree. The time required for both depends upon temperature. A mordant bites slowly when cold, and more and more rapidly when heated. To obviate irregularity caused by difference of temperature, it is a good plan to heat the Dutch mordant artificially to 95° Fahr. by lamps under the bath (for which a photographer's porcelain tray is most convenient), and keep it steadily to that temperature; the results may then be counted upon; but whatever the temperature fixed upon, the results will be regular if it is regular. To get different degrees of biting on the same plate the lines which are to be pale are "stopped out" by being painted over with Japan varnish or with etching ground dissolved in oil of lavender, the darkest lines being reserved to the last, as they have to bite longest. When the acid has done its work properly the lines are bitten in such various degrees of depth that they will print with the degree of blackness required; but if some parts of the subject require to be made paler, they can be lowered by rubbing them with charcoal and olive oil, and if they have to be made deeper they can be rebitten, or covered with added shading. Rebiting is done with the roller above mentioned, which is now charged very lightly with paste and rolled over the copper with no pressure but its own weight, so as to cover the smooth surface but not fill up any of the lines. The oil of lavender is then expelled as before by gently heating the plate, but it is not smoked. The lines which require rebiting may now be rebitten, and the others preserved against the action of the acid by stopping out. These are a few of the most essential technical points in etching, but there are many matters of detail for-which the reader is referred to the special works on the subject.

There are many varieties in the processes of etching, and it is only necessary here to indicate the essential facts. A brief analysis of different styles may be given.

(I) Pure Line. As there is line engraving, so there is line etching; but as the etching-needle is a freer instrument than the burin, the line has qualities which differ widely from those of the burin line. Each of the two has its own charm and beauty; the liberty of the one is charming, and the restraint of the other is admirable also in its right place. In line etching, as in line engraving, the great masters purposely exhibit the line and do not hide it under too much shading. (2) Line and Shade. This answers exactly in etching to Mantegna's work in engraving. The most important lines are drawn first throughout, and the shade thrown over them like a wash with the brush over a pen sketch in indelible ink. (3) Shade and Texture. This is used chiefly to imitate oil-painting. Here the line (properly so called) is entirely abandoned, and the attention of the etcher is given to texture and chiaroscuro. He uses lines, of course, to express these, but does not exhibit them for their own beauty; on the contrary, he conceals them.

Of these three styles of etching the first is technically the easiest, and being also the most rapid, is adopted for sketching on the copper from nature; the second is the next in difficulty; and the third the most difficult, on account of the biting, which is never easy to manage when it becomes elaborate. The etcher has, however, many resources; he can make passages paler by burnishing them, or by using charcoal, or he can efface them entirely with the scraper and charcoal; he can darken them by rebiting or by regrounding the plate and adding fresh work; and he need not run the risk of biting the very palest passages of all, because these can be easily done with the dry point, which is simply a well-sharpened stylus used directly on the copper without the help of acid. It is often asserted that any one can etch who can draw, but this is a mistaken assertion likely to mislead. Without requiring so long an apprenticeship as the burin, etching is a very difficult art indeed, the two main causes of its difficulty being that the artist does not see his work properly as he proceeds, and that mistakes or misfortunes in the biting, which are of frequent occurrence to the inexperienced, may destroy all the relations of tone.

Etching, like line engraving, owed much to the old masters, but whereas, with the exception of Albert Diirer, the painters were seldom practical line engravers, they advanced etching not only by advice given to others but by the work of their own hands. Rembrandt did as much for etching as either Raphael or Rubens for line engraving; and in landscape the etchings of Claude had an influence which still continues, both Rembrandt and Claude being practical workmen in etching, and very skilful workmen. Ostade, Ruysdael, Berghem, Paul Potter, Karl Dujardin, etched as they painted, and so did a greater than any of them, Vandyck. In the earlier part of the 9th century etching was almost a defunct art, except as it was employed by engravers as a help to get faster through their work, of which "engraving" got all the credit, the public being unable to distinguish between etched lines and lines cut with the burin. But from the middle of the century dates a great revival of etching as an independent art, a revival which has extended all over Europe.

Apart from the copyingof pictures by etching - which was found commercially preferable to the use of line engraving- a number of artists and amateurs gradually practised original etching with increasing success, notably Sir Seymour Haden, J. M. Whistler, Samuel Palmer and others in England, Felix Bracquemond, C. F. Daubigny, Charles Jacque, Adolphe Appian, Maxime Lalanne, Jules Jacquemart and others on the continent, besides that singular and remarkable genius, Charles Meryon. Etching clubs, or associations of artists for the publication of original etchings, were gradually founded in England, France, Germany and Belgium. Meryon and Whistler are two of the greatest modern etchers. Among earlier names mention may be made of Andrew Geddes (1783-1844) and of Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841). Geddes was the finer artist with the needle; he it was whom Rembrandt best inspired; his work was in the grand manner. Of the rich and rare dry-points "At Peckham Rye" and "At Halliford-on-Thames," the deepest and most brilliant master of landscape would have no need to be ashamed. David Wilkie's prints were, naturally, not less dramatic than his pictures, but the etcher's particular gift was possessed by him more intermittently: it is shown best in "The Receipt," a strong and vivid, dexterous sketch, quite full of character. J. S. Cotman's (1782-1842) etchings are also historically interesting though they were "soft ground" for the most part. They show all his qualities of elegance and freedom as a draughtsman, and much of his large dignity in the distribution of light and shade. T. Girtin (1775-1802), in the preparations for his views of Paris, was notably happy. The work of Sir Francis Seymour Haden (b. 1818) had a powerful influence on the art in England. Between 1858 and 1879 Seymour Haden - the first president of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers - produced the vast majority of his plates, which have always good draughtsmanship, unity of effect and a personal impression. They show a strong feeling for nature. If, amongst some two hundred subjects, it were necessary to select one or two for peculiar praise, they might be the "Breaking up of the Agamemnon," the almost perfect "Water Meadow," the masterly presentment of "Erith Marshes," and the later dry-point of "Windmill Hill." Another great etcher - Frenchman by birth, but English by long residence - is Alphonse Legros. Great in expression and suggestive draughtsmanship, austere and economical in line, Legros's work is the grave record of the observation and the fancy of an imaginative mind. In poetic portraiture nothing can well exceed his etched vision of G. F. Watts; "La Mort du Vagabond" is noticeable for terror and homely pathos; "Communion dans l'Eglise St Medard" is perhaps the best instance of the dignity, vigour and grave sympathy with which he addresses himself to ecclesiastical themes. Something of these latter qualities, in dealing with similar themes, Legros passed on to his pupil, Sir Charles Holroyd (b. 1861) - an etcher in the true vein; whilst an earlier pupil, prolific as himself, as imaginative, and sometimes more deliberately uncouth - William Strang, A.R.A. (b. 1859) - carried on in his own way the tradition of that part of Legros's practice, the preoccupation with the humble, for which Legros himself found certain warrant in a portion of the great oeuvre of Rembrandt. Frank Short, A.R.A. (b. 1857), as with the very touch of Turner, carried to completion great designs that Turner left unfinished for the Liber studiorum. The delicacy of "Sleeping till the Flood," the curiously suggestive realism of "Wrought Nails" - a scene in the Black Country - entitle him to a lasting place in the list of the fine wielders of the etching-needle. D. Y. Cameron (b. 1865) betrays the influence of Rembrandt in a noble etching, "Border Towers," and the influence of Meryon in such a print as that of "The Palace, Stirling." His "London Set" is particularly fine. The individuality of C. J. Watson is less marked, but his skill, chiefly in architectural work, is noticeable. Admirers of the studiously accurate portraiture of a great monument may be able to set Watson's print of "St Etienne du Mont" by the side of Meryon's august and mysterious and ever-memorable vision. Paul Helleu (b. 1859) in his brilliant sketches, particularly of women, has used the art of etching in a peculiarly individual and delightful way. Among the numerous other modern etchers only a bare mention can be made of Oliver Hall, Minna Bolingbroke and Elizabeth Armstrong (Mrs Watson and Mrs Stanhope Forbes), Alfred East, Robert Macbeth, Walter Sickert, Robert Goff, Mortimer Menpes, Percy Thomas, Raven Hill, and Prof. H. von Herkomer, in England; in France, Roussel, J. F. Raffaelli (b. 1850), Besnard and J. J. J. Tissot (1836-1902).

The oldest treatise on etching is that of Abraham Bosse (1645). See also P. G. Hamerton, Etching and Etchers (1868), and Etchers' Handbook (1881); F. Wedmore, Etching in England (1895); Singer and Strang, Etching, Engraving, &c. (1897).

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