Feature Articles

April 2013

Caldwell Arts Council in Lenoir NC, Offers Prints from Private Collection & Students

The Caldwell Arts Council in Lenoir NC, will present PRINTED, featuring a portion of the Intaglio Engravings collection of Joseph Delk III, along with Intaglio/Relief prints by Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute (CCC&TI) students of Thomas Thielemann, on view from Apr. 5 - 26, 2013. A reception will be held on Apr. 5, from 5-7pm.

Joseph Delk III offered the following about his collection: Intaglio printing is a process of producing images on paper from printing plates created by a technique called engraving or etching. The image is produced on metal plates on which the artist/engraver scores or scratches the metal plate, causing an indentation on it.  In engraving, the artist actually scratches the surface of the metal plate directly with a stylus. In a similar process called etching, a wax coating is placed upon the metal plate and the etcher makes scratches in the wax and an acid solution, usually hydrochloric acid, is used to eat away the metal where the wax has been removed. Both techniques produce a metal plate which has indentations on it.  

The printing process requires the printer to rub printing ink over the surface of the etched or engraved metal plate. The ink is deposited into the indentations or grooves and the plate is then wiped clean except for the ink in the indentions. The plate is then reversed, place on a large press and a piece of paper is placed under the plate. The plate is placed under high pressure and is squeezed onto the paper. The ink is transferred from the metal plate on to the paper. Most metal plates are made of zinc, steel, or copper. This process of printing is called Intaglio.

The history of engraving and intaglio printing dates from the mid-fifteenth century, soon after the development of the printing press. The earliest printer who developed the technique was Martin Schongauer, a German, in 1430. The most famous early engraver was Albrecht Durer, a German artist who produced both large and small engravings. The development of intaglio printing increased dramatically as printing expanded and more and more images could be produced and distributed to consumers. Many of the engravings were produced in books.

Some, like the ones in this collection, were printed for distribution from engravers who copied paintings. Other engravings were printed in large volumes called Folios. One of the most famous folios in American art history is that of John James Audubon, who produced the famous Audubon bird prints which were engraved and hand colored. (An example of a reproduction Audubon bird print is on display here.)  Other famous American engravers included Currier & Ives.  

With the advent of photography, the art of engraving diminished substantially as there was no need for reproduction of paintings and other art work in black and white print. The major engraving done today is done by the  Bureau of Engraving in Washington which produces our paper money and postage stamps.

This collection has been put together over a period of thirty years and represents a number of fine engravings done prior to the advent of photography. The particular genre which I have collected has been large historical scenes representing important events in American and European history. Also included in the collection are several pastoral scenes in an enlarged format. For purposes of illustration, the collection here also includes book engravings of famous figures and the reproduction Audubon bird print.

The engravings on display, except for the Audubon, are original editions which are called pulls or strikes. A pull or strike is the original printing of the engraving. Most of the ones on display were printed between 1775 and 1845. One engraving is a re-strike. A re-strike is when an original plate has been reprinted at a later date. The engravings on display, in many cases, are in their original frames and in their original condition, as many of them cannot be removed without complete destruction of the paper. Others have been carefully restored and reframed in museum-grade mountings.

This project is supported by the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Council at 828/754-2486 or visit (www.caldwellarts.com).

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