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Deconstructing a 3-plate etching & aquatint by Hans Figura

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Here is a view of Dordrecht, Holland, made in 1930 by Hans Figura (Austrian, 1898–1978).

Figura was one of the leading Austrian printmakers of the early 20th century who specialized in color etchings of European and North American scenes. He was influenced by Luigi Kasimir (1881–1962), pioneer of this difficult process.

We had the good fortune of finding this print– and the three original zinc plates from which it was printed– at separate auctions. The plates were accompanied by several sheets of notes and diagrams which help in understanding some aspects of the planning and execution of the print.

First, a bit of speculation: Let’s assume that Figura made photographs and sketches of this approximate scene during his 1930 trip to Holland, France, and Switzerland. It is unlikely that such a beautifully composed arrangement appeared ready-made before his eyes. More likely, he saw these elements in near proximity, and brought them together in on-the-spot sketches, or, later, in studio drawings. His on-the-spot sketches might have been in pencil with color notations, or he might have worked directly with color. There would have been one highly finished color drawing prior to making the plates. Gouache or pastel would have served the purpose better than watercolor or oil paint. We know that Luigi Kasimir made his final studies with pastel, so let’s suppose Figura did likewise.

Next came the strategic decisions that would place different bits of information on each of the three zinc plates.

 

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Here is plate #1. The grey shapes are aquatint biting, which means that they have a fine, even, pitted texture to hold ink. The gold areas are smooth, and meant to be free of ink. (The actual plates appear more evenly grey than these photos, which were manipulated to help us see the different surfaces.)

 

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Here is a detail from Plate #1, showing the fine aquatint texture a little more clearly. The “scratches” you see in the gold areas are only in the metal patina. They have no physical depth that would hold ink.

Do you see that rougher texture of streaking just above/right of center? That was made with a roulette, a tiny, hard steel wheel that can roll rows of lines into the softer zinc.

 

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Here is Figura’s diagram for Plate #1, showing us that a selection of ink mixtures numbered 1 through 5 were wiped onto specific areas of the plate. I say “mixtures,” because the resulting colors are more subtle than any straight from the tube or can.

 

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Here is Plate #2. This time the sky is blank, while the foreground water clearly shows different depths of aquatint biting to print lighter or darker reflections.

 

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This is a detail from Plate #2. The pale halo that you see around the texture-shapes is only patina, and has no effect on the printed edges.

 

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Here is Figura’s diagram for Plate #2, showing the placement of ink mixtures 6 through 12.

 

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This is Plate #3. It shows no aquatint texture, only etched lines. While the first two plates supplied solid tone-shapes, the third plate supplies more linear detail.

 

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This is a detail of Plate #3.

 

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And here’s the diagram for Plate #3, showing the placement of colors #12 and #13. (Color #13 is black, perhaps the only one that came straight from the tube or can.)

 

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Here is the finished print with margins. A notation at bottom/left says: 256: Dordrecht. We believe 256 is an opus number– Figura’s 256th published print.

 

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A detail from the printed work, showing the lovely interaction of etched line and aquatint tone.

 

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The water in this detail shows smooth transitions between grey and tan, the result of very skillful ink wiping.

 

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This detail shows a beautifully abstract passage. Note that the lightest tone (gulls and ice) are the bare, tan paper.

 

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This note sheet shows the printing history of “Dordrecht.” A production of this sort demands extraordinary technical skill,  and like any printmaker doing such complex and prolific work, Figura had help.

The first impressions were printed by ??? Pfeifer on December 29, 1930. Franz Schönikle did the April 9, 1933 printing. Alois Schönikle (father, brother or son?) did several of the subsequent printings. 

The final recorded printing of 11 impressions was done on November 5, 1957.

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PS: The plates and notes were contained in this wrapper, which itself is a pale, printed impression. Perhaps the plates were not re-inked for this use, but residual ink was adequate to identify the project.

 

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Thanks for looking at and reading this post! This set of plates and print will soon be on display at our Harrisburg gallery in the Midtown Scholar Bookstore. They are not for sale, but a dozen other Figura etchings will soon be available for purchase at the gallery and on this site.

 

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Etchings by Ladislav Hanka

We are delighted to announce the arrival of more than 100 etchings of birds, fish, trees, mushrooms, landscapes and bar-dwellers by Ladislav Hanka. These will appear in our two  Harrisburg shops and on this website over the coming days and weeks. (If you can’t wait, you can see more than 30 of ladislav’s bird etchings even now at our Midtown Scholar shop.)

We’ll have lots more to say about this extrordinary artist, and lots more of his work to show.

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Rosalyn Richards and Brenton Good / Art of the State

907c6f9d-0a9a-42ae-a2bb-bba18acae541Richards  / Mirror /  graphite drawing

 

A drawing  by Rosalyn Richards and a painting by Brenton Good are part of the exhibition:

Art of the State: Pennsylvania 2016

June 25 through September 11 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania  /  300 North St, Harrisburg, PA 17120  /  statemuseumpa.org

You can always find  the print work of both artists a few blocks north in our sales gallery in the Susquehanna Art Museum  /  1401 N 3rd St, Harrisburg, PA 17102  /  sqart.org

Brenton’s monotypes will soon appear on this website.

Rosalyn’s etchings appears here now, and more will soon be added.

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Special show of Jonathan Bean prints at Robinson’s, March 18 through June 12

Robinson’s Fine Prints, our walk-in store in Harrisburg,  is showing relief prints by picture book illustrator Jonathan Bean. Both old and new, the work reveals the important role printmaking plays in Jonathan’s practice of illustration. Please join us for the opening on Friday, March 18, starting at 6 PM!

We have been representing Jonathan’s print work since our opening in 2012. Now Robinson’s will be his primary gallery, and RobinPrints.com the one source for his prints online.

The woodblock print you see on Jonathan’s exhibition poster is cover image for the March issue of Cricket magazine.

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October printmaking workshops

Coming up fast— two exciting workshops by our friends Rosalyn Richards and Evan Summer at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey

 

 

Raw Material for New Ideas: Mixed Media Printing with Rosalyn RichardsFlying and Falling
Tuesday, October 20, 10am – 4pm
M: $150, NM: $165, Materials: $30

This workshop explores using existing plates and blocks as the raw material for new prints. A variety of approaches will be covered such as incorporating relief, intaglio, monoprint, collage, stencils, cut paper plates, multiple plate printing, and photocopy transfer. There will also be instruction on methods of breaking out of the traditional rectangle to create shaped images. We will use printed material as collage elements in the creation of unique, non-editioned works on paper. The class is appropriate for all levels of skill and experience.

Deadline to sign up is Oct 6th

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Collagraph Making with Evan SummerCollagraphPlate
2 Saturdays, October 24 and October 31,
10am-4pm
M: $365, NM: $380, Materials: $40

This course will focus on the building and printing of richly detailed collagraph plates. Students will experiment with materials such as matboard, fabrics, adhesives and polymer coatings – all materials that can be easily used at home. Methods of intaglio and relief printing will also be discussed in their relation to collagraphs. By the end of the class participants will have all the knowledge to produce plates without assistance. No prior experience is necessary!

Deadline to sign up is Oct 9th

 

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For more information on these and other splendid workshop offerings:

http://www.printnj.org/education/fall-classes-2015/