The Art of the Photogravure
A Comprehensive Resource Dedicated to the Photogravure
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February 24th, 2008

New Work Posted: Sun Artists

Sun Artist_31.jpg

We are fortunate to have recently added to the collection a complete set of “Sun Artists”, an excellent example of photogravure’s influence on the evolution of the art of photography.

From the introduction…” In producing ‘Sun Artists’ it is their endeavour to emphasize the artistic claims of photography by reproducing the best work in the best possible manner…The whole series, it is hoped will form a true, because comprehensive, representation of modern artistic photography.  In this sense, the promoters confidently believe that ‘Sun Artists’ discovers virgin soil…The plates in the first number have been executed by the Typographic Etching Company to whom great credit is due for the delicacy and perfection of their reproduction… The day is dawning when Nature as rendered by photography will occupy a much larger share in the esteem of cultured men, when Truth as Truth will also be conceded its claim to beauty.  The ripeness of Time my not have yet of come; should such prove the case, “Sun Artists” will help to prepare the way.  In however small a degree, it is at once the ambition and the pride of the promoters of this serial to be associated with a movement which strives to gain for Photography a recognition until now denied her.

Sun Artists No. 1, Joseph Gale

Sun Artists No. 2, Henry Peach Robinson

Sun Artists No. 3, J.B.B. Wellington

Sun Artists No. 4, Lyddell Sawyer

Sun Artists No. 5, Julia Margaret Cameron

Sun Artists No. 6, B. Gay Wilkinson

Sun Artists No. 7, Mrs. F.W. H. Myers

Sun Artists No. 8, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe

Sun Artists (original series). Edited by W. Arthur Boord. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner and Co. …, 1889-1891

February 10th, 2008

Photogravure Meets Pop?

IvorySnow.jpgWhile the focus of this site is traditional, I think Pieter Myers’ comments are noteworthy…..
Photogravure enjoys a reputation for excellence in crafting the photographic image. Perhaps because it is a relatively new among graphic media, photogravure has yet to exhibit the freedom of expression that has become the norm in much older graphic techniques. Complicating this evolution, photogravure is a chameleon, encompassing many manifestations of printmaking, and is therefore hard to classify.  Since this confuses almost everyone in the art world, people tend to focus on what they know, i.e., beautiful prints of classic black & white images. As a result, publishers, collectors, and galleries tend to overlook much of the contemporary work being done, such as creative interpretation of the original image and, yes, color. So I would like to open up the dialogue and suggest that it might be time to update the definition of photogravure.
     I recognize that definitions are not popular in today’s ecumenical art world. Yet the blurring of the boundaries between media diminishes the uniqueness and identity of any of them. Because of this, some exhibitions don’t know what to do with photogravure, and interestingly, the American Color Print Society will not accept photogravure no matter how obscured the original photographic image may be. Should we care about this? And how far away from  “photographic” can a subject be before it is no longer a photogravure? Regardless of how you feel about historical purity, I submit that photogravure is uniquely suited to contemporary subject matter, social realism and (why not?) Pop Art.  In my own work I prefer to stay within the traditionally held definition of hand pulled copper plate photogravure in order to keep the integrity of the medium intact. But I am not comfortable with photogravure as primarily a purely photographic medium.  I like to balance the scale, and even tip it more to the graphic side by using a variety of darkroom and etching techniques. If the subject suggests color, I use color. Already I have lost the photogravure traditionalist. Perhaps “avant-garde photogravure” will remain a contradiction in terms. If this is the case, the medium may even be able to hold the line against the horrors of digital manipulation.
    I hope I have stirred up some discussion with these thoughts, but it is not the photogravure police we should be worried about.  The real battle is with all the mechanical reproductions sporting fancy names that masquerade as original prints.  

Pieter S. Myers

February 3rd, 2008

Visitors from Communication Arts

Welcome. Thanks for taking the time to checkout  This struggling medium needs all the attention it can get.  And while Toky has done a great job interpreting the spirit of photogravure for the web, its true essence, like fine letterpress printing, can only be fully appreciated in person.  Photogravure pushes ink-on-paper to its limits.  

So, head to a museum’s print viewing room or your local library’s rare book room and see for yourself. Find some examples of Stieglitz’s Camera Work or Coburn’s London and then spread the word.  Or if you are in the neighborhood, stop by the studio and I will personally give you a tour of the history of photography in photogravure.

Thanks again for your interest.

Sincerely Mark Katzman

Ferguson and Katzman