An Introduction to the Woodcut of the Seventeenth Century

An Introduction to the Woodcut of the Seventeenth Century

An Introduction to the Woodcut of the Seventeenth Century

An Introduction to the Woodcut of the Seventeenth Century

Excerpt

The art of the woodcut in the seventeenth century is usually regarded as having been in a state of decay. When its products are compared with the splendid performances of the sixteenth century, this judgment does appear justified. Closer inspections of single prints as well as book illustrations by seventeenth-century woodcut artists, however, show that both vigorous and delightful performances were accomplished in this century, especially in the first half. While in a general way these works may be regarded as a continuation of the fine woodcut tradition of the latter half of the previous century, they can also be recognized quite definitely as characteristic representatives of the baroque style.

Our own century has witnessed a resurgence in the interest and practice of woodcuts and wood engravings. In the nineteenth century the latter played a humble role as maid of all work, mainly as a means for reproducing works in other media. Engraving and etching dominated the taste of lovers of the graphic arts in the last century. Through the interest of the PreRaphaelites, through William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and last but not least, through the impact of the Japanese color woodcut, the foundation was laid for the twentieth-century renaissance. Moreover, the woodcut has come to be recognized as one of the great democratic media, an art for many people through many ages. Thus, we can approach the woodcut of the seventeenth century with a fresh eye and an open mind.

The treatment of the seventeenth-century woodcut masters and their work in the literature concerning the graphic arts is spotty and uneven. A few—but by no means all—outstanding artists are mentioned, but there is no comprehensive work on the subject, and the judgments of the various authorities are vastly divergent. Also, the references to illustrated books are incomplete and therefore inadequate, and it is often difficult or impossible to identify the publications mentioned in accounts of seventeenth-century woodcut art. Also, very few of the major bibliographies indicate the presence of woodcuts. One is lucky to find such indications as plates or . . .

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