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Etching 'Afters' by Armand Durand (1831-1905)

The 1600's was the age of the great etchers, including Rembrandt
van Rijn, Paulus Potter, Antoine van Dyck and Jacob van Ruisdael.

Etching was originally intended to serve as an alternative to an even
more demanding way of printing - plate-engraving, all made by hand.
The engraver cut grooves directly into metal plate using a burin tool.
It was physically and psychologically wearing, without any mistakes.

In contrast, an etcher covers a copper plate with an acid-resistant
ground and then using tools, scratches his design into the ground.
Using acid to 'bite' semi-circular grooves into the copper where the
ground has been scratched away, the design is 'etched' on the plate.

The plate is then cleaned, inked in the grooves, cleaned again and run
through a press with a sheet of paper - the ink pressed out onto paper.
Early etchings were formless and unvaried compared to the razor-sharp
 lines of a hand-carved engraving - how to emulate rich engraving prints?

Today, the tools and materials are freely available, but in the 1600's
it was a major operation, barely 100 years old, fraught with dangers.
In the 16th and early 17th centuries, etching techniques were a secret
that could only be learned by a paying pupil from a master craftsman.

The early etchers, usually painters, often had to turn to goldsmiths for
advice in working with metal. Here, Rembrandt was well connected
and introduced a soft ground with wax allowing him to draw almost
as freely as on paper and then 'worked' on the impression by hand.

He deepened grooves by drypoint needle = giving a fuzzy line before
wearing off, the burin = neat ridges, leaving ink on the plate, and using
various papers,  allowing him to achieve a considerable variety, with
pictorial effects different than those of engraving, but no less interesting.

Rembrandt used all these of techniques and more, discovering new
expressive possibilities that no previous etcher had ever dreamt of.
As important as his paintings and drawings are, it was Rembrandt the
etcher who most palpably changed the historical course of art.

At Rembrandt's death in 1669, many of his etching plates had been
cancelled or destroyed, with only a couple usuable plates remaining.
By the 1800's these few surviving plates for Rembrandt's etchings
were worn flat and in very poor condition.

Armand Durand, a noted and very respected engraver, dedicated the
major part of his life re-creating early etchings from the masters. He
  researched and studied those pieces available in museums and private
  collections, especially the 1st and 2nd state etchings of the original works.

  Armand then duplicated the images onto new copper plates, achieving
 incredible clarity and accuracy through his own technical abilities. Durand's
etchings have been purchased by major collectors throughout Europe, as
well as the Louvre Museum in Paris and the French Biblioteque Nationale.

 Durand published all the great etchings of the masters, including a complete
set of very fine reproductions of all 347 etchings of Rembrandt, known as:
  Armand Durand's after Rembrandt.

 

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