November 9, 2008

rouen_cathedral1Etching is an artistic process that involves the use of metal plates, wax, acid baths, ink, and printing presses. First, the artist coats a blank copper or zinc metal plate with acid-resistant wax, on which the desired image is drawn with a steel etching needle. The plate is then placed in an acid bath, which eats away the copper or zinc surfaces uncovered by the etching needle, creating grooves in the metal plate. Once the acid and wax have been washed off the plate, the waxing and acid bath processes can be repeated to build more complicated layers of grooves in the plate. Once the desired texture and image is achieved, the artist rolls printing ink over the plate and then wipes off the excess liquid, leaving traces of the ink in the grooves created by the acid. Damp paper is then laid over the plate, and both pieces are rolled through a printing press, which allows the ink on the plate to be pressed into the damp paper, creating a print of the etched plate. Further copies can be made by re-inking the plate and running it through the press again.

This fall, in the Boatwright Gallery, the Danville Museum will be displaying a selection of etchings from its private collection. Since the Middle Ages, etchings have been created to depict the magnificent and the mundane - from epic battles between good and evil to still life settings of bottles and apples. Of Cathedrals & Cows will also meld images of the everyday and the remarkable in one display celebrating the etching. From incredibly exquisite cathedrals to exceedingly cheeky cows, this exhibition will demonstrate how this art form can capture extremely diverse subjects in a uniquely beautiful way.