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Chiaroscuro woodcuts in the 18th-Century

By Evelyn Wöldicke


At the beginning of the 18th century, chiaroscuro woodcut is an outmoded technique. It revives in 1720 due to a network of European experts and collectors, who are either in contact with printmaking artists or produce woodcuts themselves. Starting point of this revival are the chiaroscuro woodcuts of Anton Maria Zanetti who copies the Parmigianino drawings of his own collection by using this technique. The producers of these new prints, applying this antiquated technique, have various intentions: Zanetti’s interest is of historical nature. He consciously bases his production on works from the 16th century, period of prosperity of the chiaroscuro woodcut, especially on the works of Ugo da Carpi, and creates artistic interpretations of the originals. Others make use of the possibility to produce surface covering prints or to imitate heightened whites in order to achieve an exact reproduction of washed pen drawings. By completing the tone blocks with etched copper plates they attempt to reproduce the closest possible the lines drawn on the originals. Therefore, Elisha Kirkall with his "Twelve Prints in Claro Obscuro", Pierre Crozat, employing several artists with his "Recueil d’estampes d’après les plus beaux tableaux et d’après les plus beaux dessins", and Arthur Pond and Charles Knapton who published 70 "Prints in Imitation of Drawings" are at the beginning of a movement from which derive facsimiles of drawings of higher and higher accuracy in the course of the following years. John Baptist Jackson finally tries to not only advance the old technique but to also adapt it to new representations and to new fields of application. On the one hand, for instance, he reproduces paintings by working with monochrome chiaroscuro woodcuts, but on the other hand, withdraws with his full color landscapes from the reproduction of existing artworks. Even though the chiaroscuro woodcut disappears again in the middle of the 18th century, its role as a trend-setting pioneer and its influence on graphic arts cannot be denied

Topics: 700 Künste und Unterhaltung, 700 Arts and recreation, ddc:700, Chiaroscuro woodcut, Anton Maria Zanetti, John Baptist Jackson, Elisha Kirkall, Arthur Pond, Recueil Crozat, colour woodcut
Publisher: Freie Universität Berlin Universitätsbibliothek, Garystr. 39, 14195 Berlin
Year: 2014
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