In traditional usage, printmaking was performed for copying and mass- producing an assortment of paintings and sculptures to the general public. However, as time went and new technology came about, new innovations were discovered which made printmaking an art form of its own identity. This identity would be eventually shaped by artists including Rembrandt and Durer. Prior to this, a traditionalist sense of printmaking was be born. A Japanese artist by the name of Hokusai created a famous work called “The Great Wave.” In this piece, Hokusai utilized relief printmaking which is a method that involves design carving onto a block of wood. A ground figure would be then created by raising a substantial portion of the area, leaving some negative space. The result is a raised area which is then colored in ink and printed on paper; basically, this was a stamping method of printmaking. In strict sense, relief printmaking still pertains to the traditional usage; in using the method, the artist copies a painting over and in Hokusai’s case, he simply made multiple stamps, one of each color.
Similarly, Albrecht Durer would “copy” ink paintings in the form of engraving. Engraving, which was done on a copper plate by carving directly into it with a sharp metal tool, was a printing technique that was opposite of relief printmaking. Durer, who was a master of engraving, showed variance in tone throughout this works but not structure (since the subject matter remained the same, just on a different medium). Another technique called etching also came about in this era and like engraving, was done on a copper plate. Here, the copper plate is covered with a waxy ground which is resistant to acid. The ground is then scratched off with a needle where the artist can form lines, exposing bare metal which is then eaten away by the acid, ending up with a design etched by the acid. Rembrandt used this method as well as dry point but was notable for being one of the first artists to use printmaking for original works of art. Rembrandt would do this in a number of ways. One very unique method called for using different colored papers and inks for capturing different tones and moods on each print. Another method was the reworking of copper plates so that part of an original image would become altered in design (tone, depth). With Rembrandt’s significant contribution to printmaking, the art practice continued to evolve to what it is today.