The earliest known Etching is dated 1513 and was made by Urs Graf, a Swiss. The first great name to be associated with the art is that of Durer, who etched six plates, all of them between 1515 and 1518. He used iron instead of copper. But Etching cannot be said to have really begun until about a hundred years later, when the work of Rembrandt (1606-1669), of Callot (1592-1635), and of Van Dyck (1599-1641) burst unannounced upon the world. The latter made a score of unsurpassed etched portraits between 1626 an 1632. Rembrandt, still the patron saint of Etching, made the first of his famous prints in 1628, when 22 years of age. Callot began his series of one thousand Etchings several years earlier. Each of these men was absolutely independent of the others; each mightily influenced the whole history and art of Etching. To make an Etching the artist first covers a copper plate with a thin ground that protects it from the acide into which it is ultimately to be placed. The lines are made with a steel etching needle which ploughs through the ground to the surface of the copper, thereby exposing it to the action of the acid. The ground gives less resistance to the needle than paper gives to a lead pencil, hence the abandon with which an Etching may be drawn. If the etcher is successful in the biting of his plate, when he immerses it in the acid bath all of this wonderful freedom is retained in the lines bitten into the copper, and necessariy it appears in every impression taken from the plate. In this freedom of execution lies the great charm of an Etching. Two outstanding characteristics of an Etching differentiate it from other prints. First, all etched lines are raised lines, while those of wood-engravings and lithographs, for example are perfectly flat. Etched lines are above the surface of the paper as hills are above the surrounding country. These diminutive ranges of dry, hard ink vary in height and width, the strongest and darkest ones being many times as high and wide as are those that seem delicate and light, but one and all are raised. Hold an etching so that the sun will shine upon it, as it does upon a countryside just before setting, and you will see that these etched lines will actually cast shadows. When is a soft state these series of hills of ink are transferred from, or pulled out of, the corrsponding series of ditches which the etcher, by the application of a strong corroding acid, has made on a flat sheet of polished copper. Each time a print or impression (or what is usually, and correctly, termed an "Etching") is made from this metal plate, the plate is generously loaded with printers' ink, but practically all of this is wiped off, leaving only the etched lines or ditches full. A sheet of damp paper is laid upon this ink-filled copper plate, and great pressue is brought to bear upon the two, the result being that the ink leaves the metal and adheres to the paper. The second and most important outstanding characteristic of an Etching, one which separates it completely from line-engravings (which also have raised lines), is the very obvious freedom of execution. This can be appreciated to the full by comparing, for instance, an Etching by Rembrandt with a line-engraving by Raphael Morghen. The latter pushed his graver with such scrupulous care in the cutting of each particular line or dot that this minute perfection became in the end a grave fault. The other used his etching point throughout with absolute freedom. An etched line has blunt, square ends and is practically the same width throughout, while an engraved line is somewhat pointed at each end and may vary greatly in width. Allows 100-200 prints in good quality.
Watercolour over outline-etching
A waterclour over etched auxiliary lines . The watercolour dominates.
A Relief-print,plate made by the artist and (or) printed by the artist himself