Engraving: concept, essence
Engraving is the youngest of the visual arts. If the origin of painting, sculpture, drawing, architecture is lost in prehistoric epochs, then the appearance of engraving is more or less accurately known to us: this is the turn of the XIV and XV centuries. In the East, in China, engraving arose much earlier, in the VIII century, but there it remained a local phenomenon that did not go beyond the borders of this country.
The origin of the art of engraving in Europe
Despite the fact that the main varieties of engraving have their own technological prototypes that existed in earlier times (for woodcuts these are stamps and seals, for incisors engravings this is the craft of goldsmiths, for etching – workshops of gunsmiths), engravings in the true sense of the word , as an imprint on paper of an image cut out on a special board, appears only in the XIV century.
This phenomenon, exceptional for history, the birth of a completely new kind of art, was determined by several reasons – technological, aesthetic, social. In order for the engraving to develop, first of all, a suitable and easily accessible material had to appear on which the engraving could be printed.
In history, there are cases when the engraving was printed on parchment, on satin, on silk, on canvas, but all these materials are either unsuitable for printing or expensive. Only with the wide circulation of paper did engraving find the basis of its technology, malleable, easily accepting various kinds of images, cheap material. And paper, the production of which was established in Europe in the XII century, became familiar by the end of the XIV century.
This coincided with the collapse of the medieval highly synthetic type of art. By the 15th century, in the visual arts, the desire for a more visually accurate reflection of nature and interest in the scientific perspective were growing more and more; secular, secular subjects more and more attract artists. And fine art in a sense is polarized: the trends of naturalness, visual accuracy and persuasiveness are developed primarily by painting, and the engraving that has just appeared takes on the qualities of symbolism and abstraction. In medieval art, these properties were integral naturalistic features, but with the departure of naturalism mainly in painting, they required new ways of embodiment.
Finally, with the Renaissance, stable, often even static, human communities are moving. Content with earlier altar images in local churches, sculptural decorations of city cathedrals, people of the new era tend to have images of local and personal saints who not only adorn the walls with walls in their homes, but can also accompany them on trips and on business trips. And this goal was perfectly met by cheap and portable engraving.
Engraving has a special property that most distinguishes it from all other types of fine art. This property is a circulation. By its very definition – an imprint made from a specially processed wood, metal or stone board – engraving always exists in several, and often in many, copies. The question is often asked: does this deprive the engraving of originality, does it allow it to be listed among the main types of fine art, does it reduce it to the level of reproduction?
First of all, it should be noted that the imprint on paper is the goal of the entire creative process of the engraver, the engraving board itself plays a role comparable to materials and tools in painting, no more. From its inception, the engraving spoke in a special language, began to use specific means that sharply distinguished it from drawing and painting. And even in those, in certain epochs, frequent cases when an engraving reproduces a pictorial composition of another artist, it does not just reproduce it, but as if translates into its own completely different language, not color, but tonality, not smear, but lines and dots ; even reproduction engraving is always, to use the Pushkin word, the “re-expression” of a pictorial prototype.
The Importance of Engraving in Art History
The appearance of a replicated art form was of great cultural significance. Before engraving was born, people had no other way to report a phenomenon, about any object or device, about their unusual appearance or nature of the area, except to describe all this in words, despite the vagueness of the verbal descriptions. Engraving made it possible to use a visual image, and its inherent replication property allowed to widely disseminate such an image. In the second half of the 14th century, books appeared with illustrations showing various tools or the structure of the solar system, the specifics of certain plants, and the types of cities. Concrete knowledge, an idea of the world was given to humanity by engraving. And this continued until the middle of the XIX century, when photography and photomechanics appeared, which replaced the engraving in this sense.