Aquatint, Early 20th Century, Engraving, Etching, Mezzotint, Prints, Wood

The Mediums of Mastro-Valerio

Alessandro Mastro-Valerio: A Retrospective opens this Friday, September 20th (come to our opening!) with over 25 original prints on the OPG walls. Although celebrated for his mezzotint nudes, Mastro-Valerio also experimented with etchings, wood engravings, and monotypes, before creating continuous and spit-bite aquatint abstractions in the final years before his death (1950-1952).  Today on the OPG blog, we would like to explain the different mediums that Mastro-Valerio so artfully employed, using his prints to show the difference in styles. We hope you enjoy!

Etching

Etching has been a favorite technique for artists for centuries, largely because the method of inscribing the image is so similar to drawing with a pencil or pen. An etching begins with a metal plate that has been coated with a waxy substance called a “ground.” The artist creates a composition by drawing through the ground with a pointed stylus, to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath which “bites” or chemically dissolves the metal in the exposed lines. For printing, the ground is removed, the plate is inked, and then the plate’s surface is wiped clean (leaving the ink only in the etched lines). It is then covered with a sheet of dampened paper and run through the printing press, which not only transfers the ink but forces the paper into the lines, resulting in a raised character of the lines on the impression. Etched lines usually have blunt rather than tapering lines.

Negro Holiday. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Etching, 1933.

Negro Holiday. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Etching, 1933.

Mezzotint

Mezzotint is a technique of engraving areas of tone rather than lines. In this method, the entire surface of the printing plate is roughed by a spiked tool called a rocker. If inked at that point, the entire plate would print in solid black. The artist then works “from black to white” by scraping or burnishing areas so the plate will hold less or no ink, yielding modulated tones. Because of the capabilities for producing almost infinite gradations of tone, mezzotint has been the most successful technique for the black and white adaptation of oil-painted images to the print medium.

Reverie. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, 1942.

Reverie. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, 1942.

Wood engravings

Wood engravings are made from the end-grain surface of very hard wood, usually boxwood, as opposed to woodcuts, which are made from side-grain planks of wood neither so hard nor so expensive. Rather than cutting away non-printing areas with a knife, wood engravings are made with fine engraving tools which are used to engrave the non-printing areas with incredible precision and detail. As in woodcuts, it is the surface that takes the ink and prints.

Dawn. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Wood engraving, 1946.

Dawn. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Wood engraving, 1946.

Aquatint

Aquatint is an etching process concerned with areas of tone rather that line. For this technique, the plate is covered with a ground or resin that is granular rather than solid (as in an etching) and bitten with acid. The acid bites in between the granules. The design, wholly in tonal areas not line, is produced by protecting certain areas of the plate from the acid with an impervious varnish, by using multiple bitings to produce different degrees of darkness, and by using several different resins with different grains.

Reclining Figure. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Aquatint, 1950.

Reclining Figure. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Aquatint, 1950.

If you have any questions about the techniques or want to share which medium is your favorite, feel free to leave a comment below!

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Abstract, Aquatint, Early 20th Century, Engraving, Figurative, Gallery Event, Gallery Opening Receptions, Gallery Openings, Landscapes, Mezzotint, Prints, Wood

You’re Invited…

AMV postcard front small jpeg

Alessandro Mastro-Valerio: A RetrospectiveOpening Night Reception
 Friday, September 20th, from 5-8pm
 At The Old Print Gallery

We invite you to join us for an evening of celebration, as we premiere our new fall show- an in-depth retrospective of 20th century printmaker Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Converse with others in the DC art scene while you enjoy an exclusive first-look at the show prints, as well as several of the artist’s original mezzotint printing plates.

Free wine and light refreshments will be served. No RSVP required, all ages welcome.

For more information: WEBSITE, PRESS RELEASE, CONTACT US.

 

 

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Abstract, Aquatint, Early 20th Century, Gallery Opening Receptions, Gallery Openings, Landscapes, Mezzotint, Monoprint, Prints

Alessandro Mastro-Valerio: A Retrospective

Repose. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, 1948.

Repose. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, 1948.

We are very excited to announce to our OPG blog followers and readers our fall 2013 show, Alessandro Mastro-Valerio: A Retrospective. We will celebrate Mastro-Valerio’s captivating and varied printmaking career with an exhibition of more than 20 prominent works from the Gallery’s collection. On view from September 20 through November 9, 2013, the show includes Motif in Seascape, the 1949 Cannon Prize winner, as well as several of his original printing plates. We will celebrate the opening of Alessandro Mastro-Valerio: A Retrospective with a free nighttime reception on Friday, September 20, 2013, from 5-8pm at the gallery.

Motif in a Seascape. (Three Nudes). Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Aquatint, 1949.

Motif in a Seascape. (Three Nudes). Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Aquatint, 1949.

From his earliest drypoints to his later experimentation with mezzotints and aquatints, Alessandro Mastro-Valerio (1887-1953) studied and explored the female form in his 22 years of printmaking. Stumbling upon a display of mezzotint engravings at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, 1933, Mastro-Valerio  was intrigued and enchanted by the printing method. Mastering the medium quickly, he published his first mezzotint in 1934, and one of his earliest mezzotints, Morning, was chosen for Fine Prints of the Year in 1935. Rich in tonality, Mastro-Valerio’s prints glow and breathe, and are filled with a quiet emotion— one that resonates deeply with viewers and his admirers.

Landscape with Buildings.  (Summer Landscape). Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Aquatint, 1934.

Landscape with Buildings. (Summer Landscape). Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Aquatint, 1934.

His two brief departures from the female nude occurred in the years of 1931 to 1933, when he produced mostly landscapes, and in the last several years of his printmaking career, from 1950 to 1952, when his prints were pure abstractions, created from continuous or single-bite aquatints. Mastro-Valerio also experimented with scale, producing several small works of reclining nudes, each on plates no larger than two-inch squares. Enticing in both miniature form or on a larger scale, Mastro-Valerio’s prints have an undeniable magnetism and draw.

Rhythm. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, c.1939.

Rhythm. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, c.1939.

Reclining Nude (small). Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, 1937.

Reclining Nude (small). Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, 1937.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are thrilled with the opportunity to introduce his amazing work to DC’s art community and OPG friends and followers. The retrospective will illustrate the extremely varied and dynamic range of Mastro-Valerio’s prints, and offer many styles ( and price ranges) for interested collectors.  While we are still in the planning stages for the show, our website has been updated with all of his prints. You can see them here.

Make sure to check back on the OPG blog for more details as the show comes together, including information regarding the opening night party and reception!

Figure. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Mezzotint, 1950.

Three Nudes. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Monoprint, c.1936.

Three Nudes. Alessandro Mastro-Valerio. Monoprint, c.1936.

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