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From the Carceri series
by Giovan Battista Piranesi

In Etching a metal plate is first covered with an acid-proof hard ground made of asphaltum, beeswax, rosin and solvent. Wherever the artist scratches lines or textures in the ground, the acid will "bite" with clear definition. The longer the plate is left in the acid the deeper the open lines will become, making them print heavier and increasing the darkness of the print. The ground is then removed, and the plate is inked, wiped clean and printed in exactly the same way as an engraving. It is much easier to draw quickly on the waxy ground than it is directly onto the plate and this is why etching became the preferred technique for artists such as Picasso and Matisse who wanted to match the fluidity of drawing with the aesthetic possibilities of printing.


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