Teachers Lesson Plans

M.C. Escher

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The Drowned Cathedral, 1929 and Castrovalva, Abruzzi, 1930

These works allow us to compare two printmaking techniques: woodcut and lithography.

For the woodcut The Drowned Cathedral, Escher used a large block of wood and several different tools (penknife, gouge and chisel) to carve out his design, which appears in white against a black ground. The ink is applied with a roller in this technique, covering all the raised areas without flowing into the grooves. To print, the artist places the paper on the inked block and applies pressure to the back of the sheet, using a roller or simply the back of a spoon, as Escher did.

The technique used for Castrovalva, Abruzzi is somewhat unusual for a lithograph. Instead of drawing the design on the lithographic stone with a crayon, the artist covers the stone with lithographic ink and uses a blade to scrape the image on the surface (the scraped areas appear as white in the print). Next, the stone is washed with a solution of nitric acid and gum arabic to allow the oily ink to penetrate. Before printing, the stone is liberally rinsed with water to saturate the non-image areas. The printing ink is applied with a roller and adheres only to the oily image areas. Printing is done on a lithographic press (equipped with a scraper).