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Jim Dine: The Glyptotek Drawings Online Exhibition | Thaw Conservation Center

Jim Dine: Drawing with Light

Read more: Intro | Translucent vs. Opaque | Building up the Layers | Putting Light into the Drawings | Drawings to Printing Plates | Glossary | Sources

Drawings to Printing Plates

Figure 14
Figure 14
:
Glyptotek Drawing [2] on the left with the corresponding heliogravure print on the right.

Before starting the Glyptotek Drawings, Dine contacted master printer Kurt Zein in Vienna to determine what process would be used to transform his drawings into prints. This would be the first formal project Dine and Zein worked on together. Together, they decided that creating heliogravures, using the drawings as the positive transparencies, would best capture the subtle nuances of the drawings that Dine planned to make. This discussion, thus, guided Dine's material choices as described above.

Once Dine completed all forty drawings, he turned them over to Zein to have them transferred to copper printing plates and printed on Zerkall LITHO white mould-made printmaking paper. Heliogravure is an intaglio printmaking process, which traditionally uses light in combination with a continuous tone photographic film positive transparency to create an acid-resistant gelatin ground for transfer onto a copper printing plate. To create this ground, the transparency is placed over a photosensitive layer of gelatin and exposed to an ultraviolet-containing light source. Areas of the gelatin that are exposed to light are hardened in proportion to the amount of light that penetrates the transparency, making these areas of gelatin less soluble and more acid resistant. This gelatin layer is then bonded to a plate prepared with an aquatint grain. The plate is then placed in a series of ferric chloride solutions used to etch the surface of the copper and transfer the image from the transparency to the printing plate.

In the case of the prints seen in Glyptotek, the Glyptotek Drawings were used in place of the photographic film positive transparency. Heliogravures made in this manner are often referred to as direct gravures vi, as the step in which the drawing would be photographed to make a positive transparency is eliminated, making the process more direct. To obtain printed images that were the sharpest and most precise representations of Dine's drawings, the drawings were placed face down on top of the gelatin layer. As a result, the heliogravure prints are exact replicas of the drawings, except that they are mirror images of one another (figure 14). It is important to note that a small number of the prints are not exact replicas, as Dine sometimes worked in drypoint directly on the printing plates to make minor adjustments. Still, the prints are primarily considered heliogravures.

Drawings as Positive Transparencies

The Glyptotek Drawings are an instance in which the ultimate goal of creating a book of prints guided the artist's materials and techniques. Using materials that were readily available and relying on his intuition from years of working with drawing, painting, and printmaking materials, Dine was able to adapt his working methods to this new challenge. The catalog for the first exhibition that included these heliogravure prints, Jim Dine: Youth and the Maiden and Related Works, at the Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, 1989, stated that the drawings were destroyed when the images were transferred to the printing plates. The drawings subsequently surfaced in the 1990 exhibition Jim Dine: Glyptotek Drawings at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, revealing that in the end Dine created two works of art: the printed images in Glyptotek, and a series of forty drawings that, besides their intended intermediary printmaking function, make up the finished work of art Glyptotek Drawings.

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vi Direct gravure is a term used in David Morrish and Marlene MacCallum, Copper Plate Photogravure: Demystifying the Process. New York: Focal Press, 2003. p. 148–149. Also see: Sacilotto, Deli. Photographic Printmaking Techniques. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1982. pp. 108–109. Aquatint grain: An overall pattern that is applied to a printing plate to reproduce tone in printed form. This is accomplished by depositing a fine particulate layer of asphaltum or rosin dust on the surface of a printing plate. When exposed to acid, the voids around these particles are etched, creating a series of ink-holding recesses. Drypoint: An intaglio printmaking technique in which recessed lines are created directly on the printing plate using sharp metal tools. When printed, drypoint lines have a distinct soft appearance. Etch: The chemical removal of metal from a printing plate using an acidic solution, such as ferric chloride. Ferric chloride: An acidic solution made by dissolving iron (III) chloride (FeCl3) in water. When used to create intaglio printing plates, the ferric chloride eats away, or etches, the exposed areas of the metal printing plate to create ink-holding recesses. Heliogravure: An intaglio printmaking process also known as photogravure. Traditionally, this process uses light in combination with a continuous tone photographic film positive transparency to create an acid-resistant gelatin ground on a copper printing plate. To create this ground, the transparency is placed over a photosensitive layer of gelatin and exposed to an ultraviolet-containing light source. Areas of the gelatin that are exposed to light are hardened in proportion to the amount of light that penetrates the transparency, making these areas of gelatin less soluble and more acid resistant. This gelatin layer is then bonded to a plate prepared with an aquatint grain. The plate is then placed in a series of ferric chloride solutions used to etch the surface of the copper to transfer the image from the transparency to the printing plate. In the case of the heliogravure prints in Dine's Glyptotek, the Glyptotek Drawings were used as the positive transparencies. The elimination of the photographic film positive transparency is often referred to as direct gravure. Intaglio: A category of printmaking processes in which the image is created by recessed lines or textured areas below the surface of a metal plate. These recesses can be achieved by manual removal of the metal or by chemical removal using acid. To print the image, the plate is inked and wiped, leaving ink only in the recessed areas, and then printed onto a damp sheet of paper using a printing press. Characteristically, the printed ink is raised above the surface of the paper and the print often bears a plate mark. Intaglio includes engraving, drypoint, mezzotint, etching, aquatint, and heliogravure.
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Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.