Printmakers shrouded their images in darkness to evoke hidden, mystical worlds.
Monochrome printmaking, with its greasy black printer’s ink, was the perfect medium for this.
Many artists seized on the medium precisely to explore the darker aspects of existence.
Vallotton and the eloquence of black
Félix Vallotton’s most famous series of prints, Intimités, examines the troubled male-female relationships of the Parisian bourgeoisie.
Three quarters of the wood block for the print Money was inked up in black, creating a darkness that suggests the repressed menace and tension that could lurk within the opulent interiors of the bourgeois home.
Darkness at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre
One of the innovations of the Symbolist Théâtre de l’Oeuvre was to dim the house lights in order to heighten the mood of the performance.
The silent shadows in the lithographic programmes that Edouard Vuillard designed for the theatre are likewise shrouded in darkness, the extremely dim lighting provided by a single small lamp or window.
Pierre-Louis Mathieu, La génération symboliste, Geneva 1990.
Isabelle Cahn et al., Le théâtre de l'Oeuvre 1893–1900: Naissance du théâtre moderne, Milan 2005.
Peter Parshall et al., The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy, 1850–1900, London 2009.