500 BC - 100 AD

Relief printing techniques are first used by the Egyptians to print on fabric (les indiennes). A piece of wood is cut with a knife, and what is left of the drawing is inked and pressed on the fabric. To get more than one color, one has to cut as many woodblocks as there are different patterns.
Stone is used by Chinese artists to make the seals they will use to sign their artworks, but generally speaking, only ethnic groups with no access to wood, like the Inuits, use this material.

Abbreviated History of my prints 1
more details about selected pieces, and other stories, on my blog
One of my first woodcut, 1985
Playing with lines and color, 1985


100 -1300

In India, pictures and texts are cut on a same plank and then printed on paper (discovered around 100): it significantly promotes erudition under the Long dynasty (961-1279). These pictures and texts are then put together to make the 1st books: the older one known is called Sutra of Diamond  (868)


1300 - 1450

Crusaders bring back to Europe the secret of paper making and relief printing techniques: the 1st known woodcut is called Bois Protat  (made around 1375/1400).

Monks are the ones generally making images: inspired by piety, distributed by religious orders, they are intended to evangelize the populations. When pope Clement IV organizes the gifts of indulgences, the production of these images increases dramatically.

Abbreviated History of my prints 2
more prints of this period here, along with etchings and aquatints
"Les Bonhommes" serie , 1987-1990
Use of one block for each color , 1987-1991

Printmakers get their inspiration from stained-glass windows or paintings found in churches; the pictures come with a short text, first hand-written, then cut in the woodblock itself. Later, someone finds out that it is possible to glue the pieces of paper back to back and to bind them together in order to make books.
Secular pictures like heroes of chivalry begin to appear around 1420, and each region has its own style

1450 - 1600

Gutemberg (1400-1468) makes the first printing machine: texts and pictures are separated and the prints illustrate the stories, but each print can also be seen as stand-alone. Some printmakers start to sign their artworks. Specialized craftsmen take care of each stage of the book-making - creation of the text, illustration, printing, and so on-

Durer (1471-1528), Holbein (1497-1543), Cranach the Old (1472-1553) are from this period, and they not only use relief printing techniques, but also etching, mezzotints, and dry points to make prints which later will be be published together as books.


Abbreviated History of my prints 3
more of this style in the "galleries" pages of this site
"Le Nouveau Monde" serie , 1996-1999
"Miniatures" serie, 1998-ongoing


1600 - 1800

Relief printing is abandoned in favor of printing techniques on hollow metal allowing a larger edition of prints, and shades of gray or color imitating paintings. During this period, relief printing techniques are only used to produce popular pictures like  Les Images d'Epinal (I wrote an article about them in the Albany Print Club newsletter so you can have more information about it if you go there)

1800 - 1900

Relief printing techniques make a come-back thanks to a new method called wood engraving: it is now possible to make pictures as detailed as the ones made on metal, and these pictures will very often be used in romantic vignettes and documentary plates (especially for encyclopedia)

After 1900

Quicker methods like serigraphy, photogravure, offset, again replace relief printing techniques in the printing industry, and printmakers' workshops disappear.

Relief printing techniques are only used by artists as a way to express themselves using the specific characteristics of these techniques.


Abbreviated History of my prints 4
more of this style in the "galleries" pages of this site
Use of watercolor, wall to wall, 1999
Use of touches of watercolor, and photos for the layout, 2000-ongoing


RELIEF PRINTING and POPULAR PICTURES    see article about Epinal


2 periods:

Here is a list of artists that mainly or partly used these techniques: Gaughin, Lautrec, Van Gogh, Vlaminck, Matisse, Dufy, Munch, Kirchner, Schmitt, Rottluf, Nolde, Aleckinsky, Dix, Klee, Arp, Chagall, Miro, Picasso...


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