La Manière Anglaise: Mezzotints from the Permanent Collection


La Manière Anglaise: Mezzotints from the Permanent Collection


May 28–August 25, 2013


Invented by a German engraver working in Amsterdam in the early 1640s, the mezzotint process flourished first in the Netherlands during the latter years of the seventeenth century, and then more so in England, where a surging middle class sought inexpensive reproductions of portraits, landscapes, and other works by favorite artists. Unlike most other intaglio methods, such as engraving, etching, or drypoint, mezzotint offers, as its name suggests, a rich variety of halftones, thus rendering it ideal for replicating the illusion of three-dimensionality intrinsic to the painting of the day. By the 1750s, the reputation of British mezzotint artists had grown to the point that, on the continent, the technique came to be known as “la manière anglaise”—the English manner.

To produce a mezzotint, a ground must be prepared on the plate, usually copper, by using a rocker, a chisel-shaped tool with a semicircular blade bearing as many as 150 teeth per inch. The rocker is—well, rocked—back and forth over the plate, creating thousands upon thousands of miniscule craters and, at the same time, kicking up an equal number of tiny copper burrs. If a thoroughly rocked plate was inked and printed, the holes and burrs would hold so much ink that the result would be nothing more than a field of rich, absolute black. The artist then creates an image by working from this total darkness into light, by either scraping away the appropriate amount of burr with a knife, or flattening the burr back onto the copper with a burnisher. The further the plate is worked back to its original state, the less ink that portion of the plate will hold, and so the lighter it will print.

The mezzotints in this exhibition range from Dutch and British efforts during the height of reproductive printmaking in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to examples by artists who revisited the process in the later nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a means of generating original images.


Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University


These images are posted publicly for non-profit educational uses, excluding printed publication. Other uses are not permitted.

Collection Items

Evening with White Porch
Robert Kipniss began his career as a printmaker by experimenting with etching and then drypoint. He soon found lithography better suited for realizing his softly toned landscapes, which might be characterized as a synthesis derived from an…

Passing Storm
Martin Lewis is best known for the dramatically lit views of New York City he executed in drypoint during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Like most printmakers, though, he was proficient in several mediums, including mezzotint, of which he produced a…

From Cortlandt Street Ferry
Born and trained in Philadelphia, Joseph Pennell set up his first studio in his hometown in 1880. By 1884, he had moved to London, where he became friends with—and fell under the influence of—American ex-patriot James McNeill Whistler. He remained in…

Dox Thrash<br /><br />
American, 1893–1965
Dox Thrash studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, before and after the First World War, in which he was wounded on the final day of hostilities. In 1925 he settled in Philadelphia, where he studied printmaking with Earl Horter, and, during the…

Singer I
In 1980, Carol Wax gave up a promising career as a professional musician to concentrate on printmaking. She was then well into her studies at the Pratt Graphics Center in New York City, and by the time she graduated, in 1982, she had decided to…

Pastoral Landscape
In 1636, Claude Lorrain initiated a catalogue raisonné of sorts, drawing copies of his paintings in a bound volume that later became known as the Liber Veritatis. The album passed through several hands after Claude’s death, eventually finding its way…

Devotion in Such Looks
Like many artists, Godfrey Kneller, the most celebrated portrait painter in England at the turn of the eighteenth century, greatly enhanced his reputation, and his pocketbook, by selling reproductions of his portraits to the general public. The…

The May Queen
Although similar in style to the portraiture of Thomas Lawrence’s final decade, the imagery here does not relate to any work known to have been executed by the artist. The original source may thus be lost, or perhaps the painting George Henry…

The Right Honorable Sir Robert Pee
Charles Turner is perhaps best known today for his mezzotint interpretations of J. M. W. Turner’s landscapes (they were not related), whom he befriended while both were studying at the Royal Academy. In his day, though, he was heralded as the finest…

Mary II, Queen of England
The mezzotint process began to flourish in both England and Holland during the second half of the seventeenth century. The start of the French-Dutch war in 1672, though, sent many of the artists practicing the medium in Amsterdam, including Abraham…
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