Mezzotint

Mezzotint is a monochrome printmaking process of the intaglio family.[2] It was the first printing process that yielded half-tones without using line- or dot-based techniques like hatching, cross-hatching or stipple. Mezzotint achieves tonality by roughening a metal plate with thousands of little dots made by a metal tool with small teeth, called a "rocker". In printing, the tiny pits in the plate retain the ink when the face of the plate is wiped clean. This technique can achieve a high level of quality and richness in the print.

Saint Agnes, mezzotint by John Smith after Godfrey Kneller, usually thought to be a portrait of his daughter, Catherine Voss, by his mistress.[1]

Mezzotint is often combined with other intaglio techniques, usually etching and engraving. The process was especially widely used in England from the eighteenth century, to reproduce portraits and other paintings. It was somewhat in competition with the other main tonal technique of the day, aquatint. Since the mid-nineteenth century it has been relatively little used, as lithography and other techniques produced comparable results more easily. Interest in learning and using the technique grew exponentially in 1990 upon the publication of the Abrams book, The Mezzotint - History and Technique by artist Carol Wax. The Wax book was responsible for a substantial upsurge in the number of artists creating mezzotints in the United States and worldwide. Sir Frank Short (1857-1945) was an important pioneer of the mezzotint revival in the United Kingdom along with Peter Ilsted(1864-1933) in Denmark. Today's masters of the mezzotint process include Craig McPherson (b.1948), Frederick Mershimer (b.1958) and of course, Carol Wax (b.1953). The Wax book is in the process of a revised edition due for publication late in 2022.


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