Contemporary, Monoprint, Monotype, Portraits, Prints

Explaining Monoprints and Monotypes

As we prepare for the opening of our new gallery exhibit, Monotypes, we thought it useful to delve into the difference between a monotype and a monoprint for our blog readers and collectors. As their names imply, monotypes and monoprints are prints that have an edition of one. Often referred to interchangeably, these planographic techniques are actually quite different.

A monotype is made by drawing or painting a design in printing ink onto any smooth surface, then covering this matrix with paper and passing it through a press. The result, an exact reverse of the original drawing, is an original and unique monotype.

A monoprint is made by taking an already inked etched plate or carved woodblock and adding additional ink to the surface of the matrix. The matrix and paper are run through the press, creating a monoprint. This additional ink produces an impression different in appearance to a conventionally-printed impression from the same plate. Since it is virtually impossible to manipulate this extra ink twice the same way, every monoprint impression will be different.

To explain this further, take a look at the two portraits shown below. Elie Nadelman by Leonard Baskin is a monotype. The composition is created of solely ink manipulation on the plate- there are no etched or engraved lines delineating the profile. In contrast, the print Elizabethan by Irving Amen is a monoprint. Etched lines add contours to the face, eyes, and beard, while printing ink (applied not in the grooves of the etched plate lines but on the surface of the plate) adds color to areas like the cheeks, forehead, and background. If Irving Amen tried to create another impression of this print, he would not be able to mimic exactly the placement, intensity, or saturation of each color- which is what makes this print an monoprint and not a colored etching. There can only be one impression like this one.

Elie Nadelman. Leonard Baskin. Monotype, 1989. Image size  5 x 4 inches. Signed and titled in pencil. LINK.

Elie Nadelman. Leonard Baskin. Monotype, 1989. Image size 5 x 4 inches. Signed and titled in pencil, . LINK.

Elizabethan. Irving Amen. Monoprint, 1964. Image size 17 9/16 x 13 13/16 inches.  Signed, titled and dated in pencil, inscribed "1/1" and "unique color." LINK.

Elizabethan. Irving Amen. Monoprint, 1964. Image size 17 9/16 x 13 13/16 inches. Signed, titled and dated in pencil, inscribed “1/1” and “unique color.” LINK.

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