During the etching revival of the mid-ninteenth century and the fin de siècle, the technique of drypoint was often used alongside traditional etching.
Unlike etching, drypoint does not require the use of an acid-resistant ground. Rather, a special diamond tip needle is used to draw directly on the plate, pushing up the copper on either side to create a distinctive ridge or “burr” that holds the ink during the printing process.
The result is a rich black tone and a soft, velvety surface perfect for depicting the darker themes of the Parisian print world.
Moods in drypoint
In his print series, La Femme, Albert Besnard combined etching and drypoint to explore the bleaker aspects of feminine existence.
A gruesome assemblage of social ills, many of the prints feature graphic depictions of a woman plagued by sickness, suicide, prostitution, infanticide and poverty.
Besnard’s masterful application of drypoint produced compositions evocative of her disturbed moods .
Creatures of Shadow
In the nineteenth century, French printmakers were very interested in the quality of darkness, depicting it both visually and iconographically.
Vampires, skeletons, ghosts, and other demons lurked in the shadowy corners of the fin-de-siècle imagination.
Symbolist artists often incorporated drypoint to represent such creatures in their quirky prints.
Louis Godefroy, Albert Besnard, Parijs 1969
Peter Parshall e.a., The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy: 1850-1900, Washington 2009
Ad Stijnman, Engraving and Etching 1400-2000: A History of the Development of Manual Intaglio Printmaking Processes, Houten 2012