The printing process
The technique of printing hand-pulled copper prints, which is regarded as one of the finest techniques in printing, has remained practically unchanged since the 16th century. It is very time-consuming and requires from the printer both a high level of aesthetic sensitivity as well as handicraft skills. All our etchings, copper gravures and photogravures are hand-pulled prints. Franz Hanfstaengl contributed significantly to the development of photogravures produced by engraving the image – in this case a photograph – into the plate by means of a complicated and extremely difficult handicraft process. The possibility to produce plates of high artistic value from photographs enabled him to enlarge his collection by using pictures by well-known painters.
The Inking Process
Each colour is individually blended and carefully applied to the copper plate with a brush and a roller. It is then wiped off by the printer with wide-meshed gauze balls, quite often usinfingers and the heel of the hand. so the ink remains only in the etched part, while the free areas are wiped clean A good printing result depends to a large extent on the aesthetic sensitivity of the printer.
The Printing Process
As in the days of Dürer, each single print is pulled by hand in our modern handicraft-establishment. This is the only way to preserve the treasures of this old art of printing.
The print is created by pressing the paper into the inked plate with a pressure of around 16 tons. Preceding this step, the heavy handmade paper is soaked with water so that it can absorb the ink from the impressions of the plate like a sponge. Thus the image is transferred from the plate to the paper. As each print is pulled only once, the results always vary a little. Before starting the next printing process the plate has to be carefully re-inked and wiped clean.
Drying and Polishing
Once printed, the paper is dried and the prints are flattened for two days in the screw press. This special press, produced 150 years ago by the Krause Company, works with a pressure of 24 tons and thus gives our hand-pulled prints their final form.
To show all the details as perfectly as possible, the print is then coloured by hand with water-colours, carefully applied with a brush
The term etching derived from the Latin “radere” = scratch. It is a very accurate term for the so-called dry point process. The artist scratches the drawing in the surface of the copper-plate. For that, he uses needles of different sizes.
The etching needle shown in the picture is from the original tool kit of Kurt Meyer-Eberhardt, the famous animal illustrator.
The etching needle doesn´t grate material out of the plate, in contrast to the graver for copperplate engravings, but leaves a sort of edge near the incision . This edge gives the etching its individual appearance. . The character of the picture depends on the printer and his technique of colouring the plate with his fingers. Printing etchings as the artist intended is the greatest challenge e in copper printing.
For the aquatint, the drawing of the artist is chemically etched into the copper plate. First a protective layer is applied on the surface of the copper plate. The picture is scraped into this protective layer. The surface of the plate is etched on the spaces where the protective layer does not cover the plate, so that the picture is transferred onto the copper plate.
Franz Hanfstaengl was a leader in the evolution and development of Photogravure, where photographs are transferred onto copper plates and high quality printer’s copies are developed. For the first time it was possible to reproduce popular works of art by famous artists and made affordable for the general public. Franz Hanfstaengl, who was an outstanding photographer, visited great museums and galleries all over the world and photographed famous pictures from which to produce photogravures. That way the unique collection of famous artworks began. Artists like Albrecht Durer, Leonardo Da Vinci, Franz Defregger, Hans Holbein and others are represented in this precious collection.
Because of the excellent reputation of the Franz Hanfstaengl printing company, numerous artists had their original etching plates published there. Even today the etchings of Kurt Meyer-Eberhardt, Carl Josef Bauer or Karl Ewald Olszewski are printed from the original copper-plates.