Fine Traditional Printmaking in Copenhagen, Denmark

There is nothing like a vacation abroad to open your eyes. Our trip to Copenhagen was no exception. The number of fine printmakers within that city rivals any other city in the world.  Henrik Boergh recommended we visit here after giving us a grand tour of his studio a few miles away.  Our conversation had not prepared me for the magnitude of this operation or the friendliness of the artisans running the place.  It was all at once educational, joyful, and a great connection to the tradition we follow in fine, archival printmaking.

Here are some of the highlights.

We had the pleasure of visiting the Niels Borch Jensen studios in Copenhagen over Thanksgiving (2017)

Having to find the studio by bus in Copenhagen was a grand adventure that required some planning and assistance from the many kind people there.

One of the most jaw-dropping photogravure from polymer plate was just tacked to their entryway bulletin board at Niels Borch Jensen’s studio.  Alas, the photogravure master had left for the day. Next time I will plan my visit better. I would love to learn from him directly more about how he did this!

Mitte gave me a fabulous tour and was most generous with her time and experience. She  has been working at the studio as a professional fine printmaker since 1989!

We looked over a cross section of about 50 years of fine printmaking in the hour plus I visited the studio.

In Master Printer Niels Borch Jensen’s office! This Keith Haring piece was printed at the Copenhagen studio where I was visiting in the 1990s.

Mr. Jensen regularly sends his printmakers to art openings in America, Berlin, and all over the world. Mitte had just returned from an art opening in Atlanta. Thanks for a grand tour!

Printing Continuous Tone Photogravures from Polymer Plate

Printing for continuous tone using polymer plates is not easy. Not only do you need to be an experienced printmaker to get good results, but you also need to be a plate technician – or have the good fortune of having one in-house: Someone who knows how to render nuances and shadow details from an image and make large plates, without sacrificing sharpness, detail and quality.

This video demonstrates printing with polymer photogravure plates from Intaglio Editions for superior photographic prints. View Intaglio Editions photogravure printmaking video tutorial – and others – directly on our main website.

 

We provide a wide range of traditional fine printmaking techniques and fine print editioning services.

Call Jon to talk about your fine printmaking project today at 303-818-5187.

Newton Rings and Contact Problems

Contact Issues with polymer photogravure

Newton Rings and Contact problems between the film positive and plate cause these white patches in the print.

Hi Jon,

I’ve been making plates for several years for my photography work and have only recently started having a problem with those dreaded spots on the plate and subsequently the prints.  In researching the problem I came across your web page and it was the ONLY place I have seen a reference to these spots.  I tried you suggestion of drying the transparency and then did a small 4×5 transparency of the image on plate and it seemed okay, but then when I did an 8×10 transparency with the same process, the plate had the dots again.

Do you have any further advice about this problem with Pictorico film?  Or another film that might work without the problem.  It’s maddening and I’ve lost several days of work and lots of plates trying to resolve it with no luck.

I have some Sihl film I’ve never used and considering it.  Anyway, any help you could offer would be very appreciated.  I know Dan Welden and he says it’s a problem with Pictorico.  Is there a work around?

Thanks so much,

Jari Poulin


Hi Jari,

It is much easier to be successful with smaller plates. Larger plates have a learning curve all their own since it is a larger surface area, making tight, contiguous contact with the plate more difficult.

The problem of dark spots (which become white in the print) is typically a contact problem. In some cases it can be attributed to newton rings,. In most cases it is simply a lack of contiguous contact where the film is able to go out of focus and become diffuse in places, weakening the density in the plate in those specific areas.  

Newton rings can occur between the glass of the vacuum frame, and film – or between the film and the plate.  I avoid newton rings on top by using Kreene plastic instead of glass in my vacuum frame.

Two other solutions to avoiding newton rings with larger plates:

1. Pictorico now makes a textured film. The texture creates small cracks where air can escape, avoiding the newton ring issue on some level. 

2. The other solution is to apply baby powder finely to the plate and/or film positive prior to the second exposure to the plate. I use it sparingly, and remove as much as possible with a hake brush before putting in the vacuum frame.  It does the trick.

Hope that helps.  LMK if you have any further questions and best wishes for your project!

Jon Lybrook

Historical Photogravure Prints Online in High Resolution

The Bridal Rose - Photogravure

The Bridal Rose – photogravure by Rudolph Eickemeyer (American, 1862–1932)

Some of the most famous and well documented photogravure prints in the world of art are now available in high-resolution digital images on The Metropolitian Museum of Art’s website free of charge:

http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search?ft=photogravure&ao=on&noqs=true

Photogravure work by period photographers Alfred Stieglitz, Eadweard Muybridge, Josef Maria Eder and Man Ray, among others are available for viewing at various magnification levels and various licensing.  Some of the licensing allows free use of the high resolution artwork for non-commercial purposes.  With this kind of online service you can see the work better at your computer than in the museum (without proper access)! While no substitute for proper curatorial studies, it provides an unprecedented level of access to the Met’s collection and for that, we at Intaglio Editions give them a Tip of the Bandana.

What a fabulous service to the aging and physically handicapped scholars, printmakers, and art lovers who wish to view the work.  Now they can as never before!  Finally public art and performances spaces have begun to see the web as an ally, not an enemy to subscriptions and ticket sales! The advent of sports television has not hurt attendance at live sporting events one bit.  Let’s hope the same can be said for the marketing of art events.

Quick History of Photogravure

Edward S. Curtis as a young man

Edward S. Curtis as a young man

Arguably the most beautiful, challenging, and labor-intensive of the traditional photographic processes, photogravure printmaking is among the earliest, dating back to the mid-1800s.  Best noted in the work of Edward S. Curtis in his epic anthropological study “The North American Indian”, which he editioned from 1907-1930, the photogravure quickly gave way to more affordable silver-gelatin printing popularized by Eastman Kodak’s Brownie camera. Prior to Kodak, artists, the church, and businesses primarily turned to printmakers who used presses to render quality images for distribution.  Photogravure has come out of the long tradition of intaglio printmaking whereby artisan printmakers, working in conjunction with artists, would create an image by carving, engraving, or etching (with resists and acid) into a metal substrate, wiping oil-based ink into the grooves or pits created, and then running it through a printing press onto dampened paper.

While there are traditional printmakers still employing copper plates to make photogravures, most have moved on to use steel-backed polymer plates due to the quality, consistency, efficiency, and the more environmentally friendly nature of that approach. Polymer plates are both photosensitive and water-soluble, allowing the image to be etched into the plate using water instead of acid. The polymer plate method was introduced to the printmaking world in the 1970s by Dan Welden, a veteran artist and printmaker who discovered the fine art application of these plates, which had only recently been introduced by the semiconductor industry, where they were (and still are to some extent) used to cast molds for creating printed circuit boards.

Regardless of the technology used to create a quality plate, the true artistry and craftsmanship comes through in how the plate is printed.  The type of inks and modifiers employed,  the method of wiping, the level of care taken, the choice of paper, the amount of pressure given at the press, and method of drying and flattening the final print are only a few of the many variables that come together to create a high-quality, hand-printed, photogravure print.  More information at http://intaglioeditions.com