PHOTOGRAVURE

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Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking or photo-mechanical process whereby a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatine tissue which had been exposed to a film positive, and then etched, resulting in a high quality intaglio print that can reproduce the detail and continuous tones of a photograph.

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The photogravure process had its beginnings in the mid-19th century when Fox Talbot devised a method of producing intaglio (etching) plates by etching through a bichromated gelatine film. In 1879 Karl Klic introduced the first efficient and reliable method of producing photogravures.

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The Process in Brief
1. A film positive from a photographic negative or artist’s marks on a transparent material is created. The film positive is made much like a gelatine silver print, the only real difference being that the positive is made on transparent film.
2. A sheet of gelatine tissue is sensitized in a bath of chilled potassium dichromate. The sensitized gelatine tissue is squeegeed gelatine side down to a sheet of Plexiglas and allowed to dry.
3. The dried gelatine tissue is exposed to the positive. During exposure the gelatine is hardened in proportion to the amount of light the gelatine receives through the positive. The action of light on the sensitized gelatine renders the more exposed areas of gelatine harder than the less exposed areas.
4. The exposed gelatine tissue is placed in a bath of chilled water or a mix of alcohol and water upon a sheet of mirror-finished copper. The tissue and plate are removed from the water and the tissue is squeegeed firmly on to the copper sheet.
5. The sandwich of exposed gelatine tissue and copper is allowed to dry from 5 to 45 minutes. During the drying period the gelatine contracts, creating a firm bond with the copper.
6. The dried gelatine on copper is submerged in a tray of hot water. The hot water dissolves the lesser-exposed gelatine and the image is revealed in relief in gelatine. Once development is complete the image is clearly visible in densities of gelatine on the plate.
7. The plate with the image in gelatine is allowed to dry in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for a minimum of 30 minutes.
8. The plate is placed in an aquatint box and a dusting of rosin is allowed to settle on the plate. The particles of rosin create acid resistant dots on approximately 50% of the surface of the plate. Once the dusting is complete the plate is placed in an oven. The heat of the oven melts the particles of rosin, adhering them to the gelatine tissue.
The aquatint box contains a wind vane and a few pounds of finely pulverized rosin powder. The wind vane once set in motion creates a cloud of aquatint particles inside the box. The plate is then placed in the box.
9. The aquatinted plate is placed in a room in which humidity and temperature are controlled and allowed to sit for a minimum of two hours. During this time the temperature and moisture content of the gelatine tissue equilibrates with that of the room.
10. The back of the plate and any other areas of the copper not to be etched are protected with an acid resistant paint.
11. The plate is etched in a series of ferric chloride acid baths. The acid penetrates the gelatin tissue and around the aquatint particles leaving tiny pits in the plate. The darkest areas of the image are the most deeply etched. The highlights receive the least etching.
12. The plate is rolled with etching inks, wiped by hand with a starched cloth and run through an etching press with a sheet of art paper. The ink is transferred from the plate to the paper. Gravures are printed in much the same manner in which Rembrandt’s or Goya’s etchings were printed.

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Young and Early Art

This week be prepared for more titbits from the Art World, specifically – young and Early Art. You can meet a fresh New Artist on Thursday. Tuesdays, we keep for Art Techniques and Procedures – where you can also participate in sharing your views from the curated content published here. Art enthusiasts would, no doubt find these jottings of interest and be able to better understand the processes that go into making of an artwork. Events in the Art Calendar make up our Wednesday section where we mention important events in Art around the world and in the sub-continent. On Friday we talk of Art History and the moments that have defined Art of its time through the ages.
We look forward to your comments – both here and on our Facebook page. We welcome active discussions and debates from all. Here is a peep into what you would meet in the week coming up. Do you know who they are?

Karl Klic

Sparkles_phuljhari_fireworks_on_DIWALI,_festival_of_lights

William_Henry_Fox_Talbot,_by_John_Moffat,_1864

Esphyr Slobodkina
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Priyaranjan Purkait

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ROMANESQUE ART

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Before the Gothic Period in northern Europe, the kind of art and architecture that was flourishing was called Romanesque. Romanesque art is the art of Europe of the era from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style in the 13th century, or later, depending on region. The preceding period is known as the Pre-Romanesque period. The term was invented by 19th-century art historians, especially for Romanesque architecture, which retained many basic features of Roman architectural style – most notably round-headed arches, but also barrel vaults, apses, and acanthus-leaf decoration – but had also developed many very different characteristics. In Southern France, Spain and Italy there was an architectural continuity with the Late Antique, but the Romanesque style was the first style to spread across the whole of Catholic Europe, from Sicily to Scandinavia. Romanesque art was also greatly influenced by Byzantine art, especially in painting, and by the anti-classical energy of the decoration of the Insular art of the British Isles. From these elements was forged a highly innovative and coherent style.

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The expansion of monasticism was the main force behind the unprecedented artistic and cultural activity of the eleventh and twelfth century. New orders were founded, such as the Cistercian, Cluniac, and Carthusian, and monasteries were established throughout Europe. Writing in the early eleventh century, the Burgundian historian Radulfus Glaber described a “white mantle of churches” rising over “all the earth.” Stimulated by economic prosperity, relative political stability, and an increase in population, this building boom continued over the next two centuries. Stone churches of hitherto unknown proportions were erected to accommodate ever-larger numbers of priests and monks, and the growing crowds of pilgrims who came to worship the relics of the saints (Sainte-Foy at Conques). Adapting the plan of the Roman basilica with a nave, lateral aisles, and apse, these churches typically have a transept crossing the nave, and churches on the pilgrimage road included an ambulatory (a gallery allowing the faithful to walk around the sanctuary) and a series of radiating chapels for several priests to say Mass concurrently. For the first time since the fall of the Roman empire, monumental sculpture covered church facades, doorways, and capitals (Last Judgment, Tympanum, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne; Standing Prophet, Moissac). Monumental doors, baptismal fonts, and candleholders, frequently decorated with scenes from biblical history, were cast in bronze, attesting to the prowess of metalworkers. Frescoes were applied to the vaults and walls of churches (Temptation of Christ, San Baudelio de Berlanga, 61.248). Rich textiles and precious objects in gold and silver, such as chalices and reliquaries, were produced in increasing numbers to meet the needs of the liturgy and the cult of the saints. The new monasteries became repositories of knowledge: in addition to the Bible, the liturgical texts, and the writings of the Latin and Greek Church Fathers, their scriptoria copied the works of classical philosophers and theoreticians, as well as Latin translations of Arabic treatises on mathematics and medicine. Glowing illuminations often decorated the pages of these books and the most eminent among them were adorned with sumptuous bindings.

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SAJAL KAITY

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Sajal Kaity (b.1978) received his graduate Degree in Painting from Kala Bhavana, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan and post-graduate Degree in the same discipline from Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. He also received the National Scholarship from the Ministry of Tourism & Culture. His creative art wears are a perfect match for any festive occasion. He uses several of Bengal’s colonial and contemporary cultural motifs and renders them with his signature style. The City of Joy and its famous historical places get reflected in his art wear. From Victoria Memorial, Raj Bhavan, Dakhsineshwar Kali Mandir to Rabindranath and Durga Puja, Bengal’s cultural icons find justice in his hands. Kaity uses a bright palette and balances it to add a festive feel to his creations.
Sajal has also been experimenting with identity in his large works where aspects of identification stand in for the person that is being identified. In his interview with EWAG (featured in our facebook page earlier this month) he talks about how it would have been better to keep the identification markers and the subject of identification separate – because there is a lot of emotional ballast that makes up a person, which does not translate to the markers used by modern equipment (like thumbprints and passport photos for instance).
Sajal Kaity is slated to have several exhibitions in Europe later this year – in Hungary, Switzerland and France and is busy preparing for this opening that is sure to auger well for this talented artist.

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Indian Art Week

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Indian cultural heritage was celebrated during Indian Art Week in London from June 6 to 13 by Arts for India Charity.

The objective of Indian Art Week was to raise awareness about Indian art and provide a platform for upcoming artists and also provide underprivileged Indian artists an opportunity to receive scholarships to study art in India.

During the week, visitors attended numerous events which entailed participation of renowned artist, galleries, and the showing of related Indian films.
Events during the week included the debut art exhibition of an Indian artist at Victoria Albert museum, Christie’s tour of a non-commercial exhibition of MF Husain’s paintings titled “The Journey of a Legend”, an evening in the company of talented and promising artists at the Taj Hotel and a live auction hosted by Farroukh Engineer.
To mark the occasion, philanthropist Joan Foo Mahony announced her pledge to sponsor 20 students through Arts for India Charity.
Speaking on the occasion, Joan said: “Even though I live in Hong Kong, my heart is Indian and I’m ready to help people in various ways. The reason I have decided to help through Arts for Charity is because I think it will help underprivileged students in India and help them to develop mentally which is most important in all areas of life.”

The Indian art week celebration ended with an awards event at Mayfair Hotel and a fundraising dinner followed by a charity auction.

Sofia Hayat hosted the event and stalwarts like Ashok Amritraj were awarded for the achievements.

Indian Art Week was produced by Satish Modi, chairman of the IIFA arts institute and Erica Emm.

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The Venice Giardini is an area of parkland in the historic city of Venice which hosts the Venice Biennale Art Festival, a major part of the city’s cultural Biennale. The gardens were created by Napoleon Bonaparte who drained an area of marshland in order to create a public garden on the banks of the Bacino di San Marco which is a narrow stretch of water dividing the gardens from St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace.
The gardens contain 30 permanent pavilions. Each pavilion is allocated to a particular nation and displays works of art by its nationals during the Venice Biennale. Several of the pavilions were designed by leading architects of the 20th century.

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The first sight on entering the Giardini ground—one of the main venues of the Venice Biennale—is a royal statue with its upper body hewed off. The plinth is emblazoned with the quote, “One could have imagined him thousands of years old. He fired again into the same spot,” from George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant.
This is the fragment of the ceremonial regalia created by the Delhi-based RAQs Media Collective at the oldest and grandest art event. RAQs—founded by Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta—has installed eight similar mutilated sculptures titled “Coronation Park” outside the central pavilion of Giardini.
“They offer nine meditations on hubris. The idea is to celebrate neither victory nor defeat. The structures constitute a series of stations that invite the viewer to reflect on the inner life of power,” says Shuddhabrata Sengupta.

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It took RAQs several months to put up its show. The original idea was to create a Coronation Park in Delhi. So if not for the commercial business, Sengupta says, the effort was worth taking for the idea to develop through artwork.
The structures by RAQs—a one-and-a-half decade old group—are among the handful by Indian artists at the Olympics of the art world. The event, opened on May 9th, has mustered 136 artists from 53 countries. There are 89 national pavilions and 44 collateral events being held.
Beside RAQs, urbanists Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty from Mumbai and Kerala-based artist and filmmaker Madhusudhanan are other Indian artists who have showcased their work at the main venues of the event—Giardini and Arsenal.
There are more artists from India like Shilpa Gupta and UK-born Olivia Fraser who have garnered interest from many international connoisseurs for their works at the collateral events.
Curated by Nigeria-born Okwui Enwezor, the Venice Biennale is open till 22nd November. While the going seems to be good for the Indian artists so far, it would be interesting to see what unfolds for them in the coming months.

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ETCHING

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Etching is a method of making prints from a metal plate, usually copper, into which the design has been incised by acid. The copperplate is first coated with an acid-resistant substance, called the etching ground, through which the design is drawn with a sharp tool. The ground is usually a compound of beeswax, bitumen, and resin. The plate is then exposed to nitric acid or dutch mordant, which eats away those areas of the plate unprotected by the ground, forming a pattern of recessed lines. These lines hold the ink, and, when the plate is applied to moist paper, the design transfers to the paper, making a finished print.
In the variety of etching known as aquatint, a copperplate is exposed to acid through a layer of melted granulated resin, leaving an evenly pitted surface that yields broad areas of tone when the grains are removed and the plate is printed. Etching and aquatint are often combined in a print by means of successive workings of its plate.
12Melancholia, By Durer

The practice of making prints from etched metal plates grew out of the custom of etching designs on armour and was adopted by printmakers as an easy way of engraving, a process of making prints from metal plates incised with a tool called a burin. The first dated etching was made in 1513 by the Swiss artist Urs Graf, who printed from iron plates. The prolific German graphic artist Albrecht Dürer made only five etchings. In his “Cannon” (1518), he tried to imitate the formal, premeditated quality of engravings, revealing that etching’s spontaneity and flowing line were as yet not valued in northern Europe. The 16th-century Italian artist Parmigianino, however, made etchings with easy, graceful strokes that show his full understanding of the technique. In France, the printmaker Jacques Callot used etching as an aid to engraving in his series “Miseries of War” (1633). He not only incised the metal when drawing through the ground but also reinforced the lines with an engraver’s burin after the plate had been exposed to acid.
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The first and perhaps greatest master of pure etching was Rembrandt (1606–69). He abandoned all links with engraving and produced over 300 etchings with unsurpassed virtuosity, using the freedom inherent in the medium to render light, air, and space. The 18th-century Venetian artists Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Canaletto also used etching to capture atmospheric effects, and the Roman etcher and archaeologist Giambattista Piranesi used etching to serve his fantasy in his series “Carceri” (c. 1745), a group of interior views of foreboding imaginary prisons. More horrific was the series “Los desastres de la guerra” (1810–14), by the Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. Unlike most of his other prints, Goya’s “Desastres” were done mainly in etching with little aquatint.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, soft-ground etching, or vernis mou, became current. This technique involves drawing with a pencil on a sheet of paper placed on a copperplate coated with an extremely soft, sticky ground. The ground adheres to the paper wherever the pencil passes, leaving the metal exposed in broad, soft lines. The plate is exposed to acid and, when printed, yields results similar to pencil or chalk drawings. It was primarily a reproductive technique but was used by the 18th-century English artists Thomas Gainsborough, John Sell Cotman, and Thomas Girtin for original designs, mainly landscapes. In the late 19th century, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, and Mary Cassatt used the then moribund technique for artistic ends, and their work fostered a revival in the 20th century.
Etching continued to be used by most artists throughout the 19th century, and in the 20th century the technique was adopted with new enthusiasm by several prominent artists. Primary among them is Pablo Picasso, who first made etching a vehicle for his Cubist ideas and subsequently exploited the technique’s purity of line in his “classical” period. Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Georges Rouault, Joan Miró, Stanley Hayter, and David Hockney also did much important work in this medium.
(Courtesy: Encyclopaedia Britannica)
3 Etching, by Pablo Picasso

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4 Miro etching aquatint

4Artist and Model, an etching by David Hockney

WALKING THROUGH ART

Art occurs in the day to day life around us, whether we see it or not. It is not just the rainbow or majestic cloud formations in the skies. It is also the street life, roadside stalls, the uniqueness of people and their faces and expressions, the paintwork on the trucks, the crisscross of overhead wires of different kinds, and snaking tramlines. It may also just as well be the cavernous tunnels of the underground railway, the splatter of rain on asphalt and in marketplaces that seem to be everywhere on Indian streets, where all sorts of colourful wares vie for attention.

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face on Indian street

Colourful bangles for sale

Busy Indian flower market

Street in old quarter of city

WELCOMING THE WEEK WITH RAINS

The rains have come to most parts of India and the sunburnt, steamy land is relieved to have some comfort at last. We welcome you to this mild week with soft skies and refreshing showers. Artists have had a love affair with rain, especially in South Asia. Their work captures the spirit of the place and the beauty of the monsoon. This is a season that is almost unique to our part of the world.

Shameek Kumar Ghosh_rain_2Shameek Kumar Ghosh_Kolkata in the rains

rain in KolkataRain through the windscreen

Monsoon on glass paneRains in the countryside

kolkata-monsoon-dilip-choudharyKolkata Monsoon, by Dilip Choudhary

Churchgate_Watercolor_on_Paper_22_x_301-ananta_mandalStation in Bombay, by Ananta Mandal

Streets in rain_B Nadees Prabou Rain on streets, by B Nadees Prabou

THE MANGO SEASON

We wish you all a happy and relaxed weekend. The showers that have been playing hide and seek with us over the past week in parts of India would refresh some. Others would have to cool off in the shade or indoors. Some of you may be holidaying in better climes or abroad.
For all of you – in India or overseas, here is a weekend pic – a painting by Stephen Anderson – cheekily named “Last Mango In Paris”. Here or away, this fruit would beat the heat in the sweetest possible way!

last-mango-in-paris-stephen-anderson Last Mango In Paris – by Stephen Anderson

THUMBNAILS

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We all know thumbnails as a reduced size of pictures that helps us to recognize the images like in the use of the contents of files on the computer. But thumbnails have been a mainstay of art for centuries and, in fact, have come into practice from artists from early times.
The thumbnail is a picture, in small size, stripped of all details, and works just as a rough draft of a bigger idea. Many artists have made thumbnails famous and the sketchbooks of some artists are as valued as the canvases they have produced.
The name ‘thumbnail’ has, obviously, come from the real human thumbnail. That is taken to be an approximate size for a doodle or rough copy of that would later be enlarged and converted into a complete work. Of course, the real size of the thumbnail is not limited to the dimensions of a real thumbnail – and the word merely gives an idea of the smallness of the draft.
Thumbnail sketches are shorthand notes for artists. They are usually done very rapidly and with no corrections. Any medium may be used, but pen or pencil has been the most common. They are also memory aids and planning tools, so that the important features of the larger work are remembered. Thumbnail sketches are a great way to plan colour schemes.

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