The Art of the Photogravure
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November 13th, 2016

Trumped by Tech


Finding these thoughts particularly relevant today as photogravure has played such a significant role in the evolution of the communication technology…

No one really knows how to cope with the revolution sweeping the world. It is a technological revolution, yes, and the lords of Silicon Valley spin endless hours of jargon about its magical possibilities. But its social and political impacts already overwhelming and rapidly multiplying are coming much faster and more furiously than governments can digest them.

What does it mean to put a computer in the palm of every human being, and to link each palm instantaneously with every other? When Gutenberg’s revolution of movable type first made it possible to share ideas widely across space and time, the political and social follow-on effects included the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the rise of democracy and the industrial and scientific revolutions. In other words, everything from daily routines to international order was scrambled and re-scrambled. How much change, and how rapid, will this massively more powerful technology cause?

Trump was the first successful candidate to realize that these same forces must disrupt the political sphere. Communication is the wiring of democracy; the more communication you have, the easier it is for people to find what they want, and to organize with others who are seeking the same thing. This is true whether the people want the right thing or the wrong thing, whether they seek evil or good. For this reason, many of the Founding Fathers feared an excess of democracy. T. — from ‘Message Delivered” by David Von Drehle , Time Magazine Nov. 12, 2016

May 11th, 2015

Summer Photogravure Workshops – Renaissance Press

Debbie Flemming Caffery

Debbie Flemming Caffery, My Van's Camp 1987

This summer, Renaissance Press will be offering three intensive copper plate photogravure workshops, introducing students to the evolution of copper plate photogravure technique and imagery, from the processes inception to present day practices.   Artists that wish to use Mylar for direct copper plate photogravure plate making and printing are also welcome. A comprehensive PDF detailing all aspects of photogravure taught at the workshop will be given to workshop participants.

This workshop is particularly interesting because Paul Taylor has been knee deep in perfecting the digital film positive.  Anyone in alternative photographic process would benefit from tapping into his knowledge.


June 18,19, 20, 21, & 22

July 16, 17, 18, 19, & 20

August  20, 21, 22, 23, & 24

More info

October 31st, 2014

Old School: Hendrik Faure

Untitled, 2011

Untitled, 2011

My first question when an artist inquires about being included in this collection is – do you work in copper?  More often than not these days the answer is ‘no, polymer.’  So when I learned that German photographer Hendrik Faure did indeed work in copper, I was excited to see his prints.

His gallery describes his work as “lonely landscapes with richly textured, haunting results. Using objects in his studio Faure creates intimate microcosms combined with the reoccurring themes of life, beauty and decay. Flora and fauna wilt and dry alongside animals, reptiles, birds, skulls and mannequins. Despite the sombre nature of the subjects, his imagery is rich with emotive and silent composure. The distressed appearance of Faure’s photographs creates a venerable classicism. His sometimes-surreal scenes slowly reveal themselves amidst the distressed qualities of the gravure.”

First hand, Faure’s images beautifully tap the photogravure proccess to convey the intensity and beauty that this vetreran psychiatrist, insightful photographer and dedicated printmaker sees.  To learn and see more, visit L A Noble Gallery.

June 1st, 2014

Stieglitz Exhibit: Nuance and Photogravure

For those that still doubt the fact that Alfred Stieglitz fully embraced photogravure for its expressive potential and nuance, you only need to visit the Alfred Stieglitz, The Art of Photogravure exhibit at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art which opened in Fort Worth on May 10.

The small show, curated by John Rohrbach, Senior Curator of Photographs, is comprised of ten large-format photogravures by Stieglitz. These exquisite versions of some of Stieglitz’s most important photographs were in his private collection at the time of his death. They reveal, first hand, how he experimented with different inks and papers in his efforts to best convey his personal vision.   Of particular interest is the display of four slightly different prints of the same image, Spring Showers – three large and one small. The three large versions of this iconic Stieglitz masterpiece side by side represent a rare opportunity to compare nuance in his photogravure prints. The small version, still bound in an issue of in Camera Work 36, is nearly identical in it’s paper choice and ink color to one of the three larger versions offering strong evidence of Stieglitz’s personal participation in the printing of the Camera Work photogravures.


The exhibition is drawn from a generous gift of Doris Bry, who worked for many years as the assistant and exclusive art dealer for Georgia O’Keeffe and runs through October 19, 2014.  Exhibit times are set from 10:00AM to 5:00PM on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On Thursdays, you can visit from 10:00AM to 8:00PM. The exhibit also runs at limited hours on Sundays at 12:00PM to 5:00PM. For more information, you can call 817-738-1933.

April 28th, 2013

Philadelphia Museum of Art Highlights Photogravure

he Terminal, 1893 (negative); c. 1913 (print) Alfred Stieglitz, American Photogravure Image: 10 x 13 3/16 inches (25.4 x 33.5 cm) Sheet: 10 7/8 x 14 1/16 inches (27.6 x 35.7 cm) Mount: 16 13/16 x 22 11/16 inches (42.7 x 57.6 cm) The Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949 1949-18-48

Exhibit includes Stieglitz large-format photogravures including The Terminal (10 x 13 in)

Photogravure: Master Prints from the Collection
May 11, 2013 – August 11, 2013

Curated by Peter Barberie, The Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center.

This exhibition includes fifty-five works, most of them master prints from the 1880s through the 1910s by Pictorialist photographers such as Edward S. Curtis, Peter Henry Emerson, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz. There are also extraordinary examples from the 1930s by Man Ray, Paul Strand, and Doris Ullman, and contemporary works by Ian van Coller, Jon Goodman, Eikoh Hosoe, and Lorna Simpson.

Honickman Gallery, ground floor

April 13th, 2013

Photogravure Workshop Results

Tyler Craft, Langkofel, 2012

Tyler Craft was introduced to photogravure when he volunteered to program this site.  He has since become a savvy collector and now has made a photogravure of his own. Tyler is a highly sought-after programmer. His interest in photography is recent, and it is a hobby.  His (very thoughtful) wife gave him a photogravure workshop with Paul Taylor at Renaissance Press as a birthday gift last year.  I was floored by the image he produced from his first attempt.  The point is, while this is a very complicated and laborious process, with the right workshop and teacher one can achieve beautiful results with little to no experience.

If you are interested, Paul’s summer workshop schedule and more information can be viewed here.

October 15th, 2011


David Spencer is a passionate collector of photography.  His collection is based on a solid, if not inexhaustible, body of research he has worked diligently to accumulate over the past 15 years. Recently he launched as a venue to share that information.  PhotoSeed was launched quietly this summer, but the quiet did not last long.  It was  just awarded the coveted site of the week by Communication Arts Webpicks.

“PhotoSeed is a labor of love by David Spencer, a passionate and leading collector of vintage fine-art photography. The site, comprised of his personal collection, was populated in his free time and includes his detailed backgrounds for many of the works. 

Defined by the depth of the collection and content, it’s a tool for new users and the curious, as well as scholarly researchers.”

So big congratulations to David for making it happen and a bigger thank you for sharing with the community the elusive information that you have tirelessly and diligently collected.

Screen shot 2011-10-15 at 7.16.15 PM

March 1st, 2011

What’s Wrong With This Picture?


It is a stunning and surprisingly modern original-negative, hand-pulled, dust grained Talbot Kilc photogravure by Frank Eugene, which appeared in Stieglitz’s Camera Work 30 in 1910 – one hundred years ago.  The artist and the image are both icons in the history of photography. The image is held in the collections of the most prestigious photography museums in the world and there are fewer than 200 copies in private collections.  So how was it possible that I purchased this rare vintage print, beautifully framed, for only $250? It was not damaged, faded or in any way compromised.


The Ebay seller told me she spent over $250 to frame it.

The Ebay seller told me she spent over $250 to frame it.

The photographer, Frank Eugene (1865-1936) is regarded as one of the most significant figures of the Pictorialist movement at the turn of the century and is mentioned in almost every anthology written on the history of photography.   His revolutionary work incorporated a synthesis of painting, etching and photography and was often the subject of heated debates over weather or not a photograph should/could be ‘manipulated’ in order to achieve an artistic effect.

MK_CPOYWRK_02_11 19317


Borrowing from his experience as a painter, Eugene aggressively scratched on his negatives to remove or reduce unwanted details and to enhance the expressive characteristics of an image.

“What made Eugene so attractive not only to his contemporaries but also to Stieglitz was his totally unorthodox method

of rubbing oil onto the negatives and adding cross hatching with an etching needle sometimes leaving only small portions

of a picture recognizably photographic.” Naef  p.96

Critic Charles Caffin, who authored the landmark book Photography as a Fine Art (1901), also validated Eugene’s technique …

“only a trained and gifted photographer was in the position to create such delicate images and alter their power of

expression so masterfully by manipulating them… The print, printed as it is on Japan paper, conveys every impression

of an etching, having the beautiful characteristics that one looks for therein: spontaneousness of execution, vigorous and

pregnant suggestiveness, velvety color, and delightful evidence of the personal touch. The art is still in the womb of time,

its possibilities becoming wider and more appreciated; being new, one learns that the old standards and points of view

do not necessarily apply to it, and more and more realize the need for an open mind”


The publishers of Impressionist Camera: Pictorial Photography in Europe, 1888-1918 felt it deserving of one of the few two-page spreads in its 350 page publication.

Eugene’s unorthodox methods were controversial to say the least, and struck a nerve in the American ‘photography as art’ movement of the day amplifying the ongoing debate over weather manipulating a photograph to make it art is acceptable and justifiable.

In Eugene’s own words…

“It has often been said that the [Horse] photograph was reminiscent of an etching.  But that was in no way intended.

The banal surroundings which were inessential and disruptive to the photograph as a whole were removed from the

negative with a retouching knife, but nothing else was changed, neither the light nor the shadows, nor the form and line

of the animal’s body.”

Eugene’s aim was to suppress the inessential in favor of the essential.

Very little of Eugene’s work survives today – a typical fate of much that has to do with the history of photography and an indication of how little is known about the medium and how low esteem that part of our cultural heritage is held.

Charles Caffin obviously felt the image worthy of consideration when he used it to introduce a chapter of his landmark, "Photography as Fine Art" in 1901

If interested in this image, I will be donating it to the 2011 George Eastman House Benefit Auction and hopefully there it will command a price more in line with its pedigree.


Caffin, Charles H. Photography as a Fine Art: The Achievements and Possibilities of Photographic Art in America.  New York: Doubleday, Page & Co. 1901

Naef, Weston. The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz – Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. New York: The Viking Press, 1978

Pohlmann, Ulrich.  Frank Eugene: The Dream of Beauty. Munich: Nazraeli Press 1995

Prodger, Phillip. The Impressionist Camera: Pictorial Photography in Europe, 1888 – 1918.  Merrell and the Saint Louis Art Museum, 2006

December 23rd, 2010

When Subjectivism Ruled

From the  December 23 review “When Subjectivism Ruled” in the Wall Street Journal written by Richard B. Woodward.

The Pictorialists were a loose confederation that encouraged artists to be subjective with their cameras. Impressionist suggestion was preferred over clinical frankness, allegory to journalism. Prints visibly altered by the hand of the photographer were judged to be the most beautiful prints.

Stieglitz’s gradual disgust with this creed and his conversion to the idea that “objectivity is of the very essence of photography”—announced in a 1917 article—slammed shut the pre-World War I chapter of his past. Thereafter, the superiority of sharply focused images and “straight” printing became fundamental for his league of followers and for modernists everywhere.

“TruthBeauty” illustrates what must have been obvious, most of all to Stieglitz: Modernist photographers owed a lot to their despised predecessors, and the line between them was fuzzier than the triumphant upstarts later wanted to admit.

Read the Review

Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Tunnel Builders, New York 1913

Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Tunnel Builders, New York 1913

August 29th, 2010

Notes On Photographs: The Photograph Connoisseurship Resource

Annie Brigman, "The Bubble" variant poses

Annie Brigman, "The Bubble" variant poses

The Gorge Eastman House has recently launched Notes On Photographs which aims to compile and illustrate relevant information that characterizes a photographer’s work. It intends to be used as a reference database for illustrating key attributes documented by conservators, curators, collectors and scholars dedicated to the study and observation of photographs. The capabilities of the wiki system allow for the resource to be a stage of discussion on meaningful information in better understanding fine photographs. There is currently a demonstrated need for a greater sophistication in the study of photographs. This is due essentially to three aspects: the rise in market value of these objects, the lack of reference resources for works of masters, and the closure of chemical imaging that is leading to a need for re-reading the history of photography. Curators and collectors have been calling upon conservators to answer questions relating to issues of authenticity and understanding of photographs–authorship, photographic processing, dating and provenance. Conservators, who have the tools and knowledge to analyze photographic materials, have in recent years directed the research focus towards characterization protocols. In order to compile and surpass platforms of knowledge it is important to create reference resources. Newly developed imaging and information tools allow for the creation of such a resource using the wiki system that will be added to and serve conservators, curators, registrars, catalogers, and all those involved in the study, observation and valuation of photographs.  Visit the site.

August 25th, 2010

Stieglitz at the Fogg

Wet Day on the Boulevard, 1894, Alfred Stieglitz

Wet Day on the Boulevard, 1894, Alfred Stieglitz

Alfred Stieglitz: In-Sight Evenings: Looking Deeper and Differently at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum @ 485 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02138

In 1969 the Fogg Museum received a selection of photogravures by the legendary impresario of American modernism, Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946). Drawn from the artist’s first portfolio of his own work, Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies (1897), the images signaled a critical sea change in Stieglitz’s approach to the fine art of photography, while their acquisition marked the advent of a new direction in collecting for Harvard’s art museums.

This In-Sight Evenings series features a talk by Deborah Martin Kao, Chief Curator; Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography; Acting Head, Division of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums on Stieglitz and his seminal work.

Wed. September 22, 2010, 6 pm – 8pm.

Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum

Tickets are $25.

Space is limited and registration is encouraged. For a full listing of member discounts, to register, or to request an In-Sight brochure, call 617-495-0534 or email

May 1st, 2010

Emerson at the Musée d’Orsay

Poplars and Pollards on the Lea, Near Broxbourne, 1888

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

March 16 – June 20, 2010

From the museum’s website…..

In 1895, only ten years after abandoning medicine to take up photography, Peter Henry Emerson published Marsh Leaves, his last illustrated book. Today it is difficult to imagine the feelings these landscapes inspired in readers of the time – images as uncontrived and evanescent as those in his first collection, Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads published in 1886, were a concentrated representation of rural life.

There was a clear development between the two books from the pictorial model of Jean-François Millet to a style influenced by James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Japanese art, from a documentary approach to pure poetry. Although we in the 21st century can immediately appreciate the formal radicalism that Emerson finally achieved, it is more difficult for us to imagine the fierce aesthetic debates that his first masterstroke aroused at the time.
His writings, as well as formulating Naturalistic photography, are a reminder that below the calm waters of this timeless vision of rural England lurked one of the most virulent polemicists in the history of photography.

April 11th, 2010

Lothar Osterburg recognized by The American Academy of Arts and Letters

Two color photogravure, 11” x 11”. Courtesy of Moeller Fine Art, NY.

Two color photogravure, 11” x 11”. Courtesy of Moeller Fine Art, NY.

New York, March 25, 2010 — The American Academy of Arts and Letters announced today the eight artists who
will receive its 2010 awards in art. The awards will be presented in New York City in May at the Academy’s
annual Ceremonial. The art prizes, totaling $62,500, honor both established and emerging artists. The award
winners were chosen from a group of 37 artists who had been invited to participate in the Invitational Exhibition of
Visual Arts, which opened on March 11, 2010. The Invitational Exhibition continues through April 11, 2010, and
features over 120 paintings, sculptures, photographs and works on paper. The members of this year’s award
selection committee were: William Bailey, Chuck Close, Eric Fischl, Jane Freilicher, Judy Pfaff, Martin Puryear,
Robert Ryman, and Ursula von Rydingsvard.

Five Academy Awards in Art of $7500 each are given  to honor exceptional accomplishment and to encourage creative work.  This year’s winners include:

March 9th, 2010

Brassai’s Paris de Nuit: Photogravure or not?

Brassai, Open Gutter From "Paris by Night" 1933

Brassai, Open Gutter from "Paris by Night" 1933

Brassai’s Paris de Nuit is highlighted in Andrew Roth’s 101 Best Photography Books, “The photogravures are so rich that the sooty blacks still look like they’ll rub off the page… Brassai became a master of drawing luminosity from the darkness.”

Was Roth correct in referring to the images in this book as photogravures?  Just what does the term ‘photogravure’ really mean? Truth of the matter is that while the images in Paris de Nuit are by strict definition photogravures, they are ‘sheet-fed’ photogravures which cannot really be compared in quality or craftsmanship to ‘hand-pulled’ photogravures.

Sheet fed photogravures were printed by relatively high volume presses and are typically found on relatively low-quality paper. Production efficiency and automation trumping aesthetics, the ink was thinned with solvents in order to be able to be applied mechanically.  The ink was also applied thinly to aid in quick drying.  Further compromising quality, a grid like screen was used to generate the gradation of tone rather the more organic and time-consuming aquatint dust used in the hand-pulled photogravure process.  So while sheet fed photogravures did reproduce images in ink with an intaglio plate, that’s where the comparison ends.

The photogravures highlighted on this site are all handmade.  They are old school. The tone defining grain is organic rather than a screen. The ink is thick and rubbed deep into the plate by hand.  The plate is run through the press slowly, one sheet at a time, to insure the complete transfer of the pockets of ink deep into the oftentimes hand handmade tissue or paper.

It is no wonder photogravure is so misunderstood (translate: undervalued.) If the same word is used throughout the photography collecting community to describe both something that is machine made AND something that is hand-made, who wouldn’t be confused?

January 12th, 2010

Photographic Art Treasures

Roger Fenton, Water Gate, Raglan Castle, 1856

Roger Fenton, Water Gate, Raglan Castle, 1856

Google alerts are great if you are searching for information on obscure subjects.  That is exactly how I discovered Paul Morgan.  Paul was offering a talk at the National Media Museum entitled ‘Paul Pretsch and Photogalvanography 1850 – 1870’.  Surprised not only to find someone interested in the subject but also to see one of photography’s most prestigious institutions offering a talk on photogralvonagraphy, I emailed Paul to introduce myself and see if he would let me read his lecture.

Paul and I have since had in depth correspondence about Pretsch.  He has provided me with a plethora of images and text regarding Pretsch, photogalvanography and Fenton.  Eventually,  I asked for Paul’s bio.  Expecting to see something like Professor of Art History – Oxford, I was surprised to see that he is a layperson with a passion for creating, learning and writing — rendering his work on Pretsch all the more impressive.

From Paul’s bio….”I was educated at Rossall, then took a degree in Communication Studies at Aston in Birmingham. Have been through quite a variety of jobs, but the main spell was living and working with profoundly handicapped youngsters. Have always been involved in the arts, my own output including painting, drawing, photography, poetry, drama, and prose. Usually occupied in writing of some variety, in latter years mainly odd articles, covering subjects from local history to Captain Morgan the pirate.  My interest in Pretsch came about from finding some photogalvanographic prints, but very little information about them.  I ended up spending a decade intermittently pursuing the full story. Now have turned my attention to an investigation of the Battle of Loos in 1915, where my maternal Grandfather died.”

Paul has generously agreed to let me publish his work on Pretsch in the text section of the site.  It is as comprehensive essay on Photogalvanography you’ll find, celebrating the forgotten innovation that lead to the first published photographic art portfolio in ink – Photographic Art Treasures.

Thank you Paul.