Collection: Antique Woodcut Prints

Woodcut printing developed in China around the 5th century and was later adopted in Japan. Originally they were used to print Buddhist scriptures. In Europe they began to be used for images in the late 14th Century, when paper started to be manufactured commercially in Germany and France. The printing press itself also dates from around this time. Printing with woodcuts is a three stage process. Firstly the artist cuts away all the parts of the wood plank that won't be printed, using small chisels and blades. Any mistake in this process and the maker would have to start all over again. If colour is to be utilised, a woodcut for each colour needs to be made. The carved woodblock is then inked with a roller, taking care to only apply ink to the areas that haven't been cut away.
The inked block is then pressed onto paper which results in an impression of the image. Other colours can be added using different woodblocks. Wood Engraving is a version of woodcut developed in the 18th century. Thomas Bewick of Newcastle (1753-1828) was the first exponent of wood engraving. A very hard wood is used (usually boxwood), which is cut across the grain. The engraving is done on the end grain of the piece of wood. It is not a true engraving, as it's a relief print like the woodcut. The wood engraver is able to produce much more detailed work because he mostly incises his lines, producing white lines on black, rather than cutting away wood to leave exposed lines that will print black on white. Artists Gaugin and Munch both used woodblock printing to great effect.
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