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Woodcut Prints

A woodcut is a relief print that is made by carving an image into a wooden block. Printing from wooden blocks originated in Japan in the 8th century, and is still a popular traditional artistic practice today. Typically, images were printed on textiles in Asian printing practice.

The woodcut did not appear in Europe until the early 1400s, and was used primarily for the purpose of creating printed books. In the 1600s, the woodcut technique was brought to its zenith by Albrecht Dürer, who achieved a fine level of detail and subtle tonality within woodcut prints. The medium was revived by the German expressionists in the 1800s, who favored the technique for the thick, primitive effects the technique produced.

The woodcut process involves ink that is applied to the raised areas of the wood using a roller known as a brayer. The image is then transferred to dampened paper.

Quick Facts

  • Japanese woodblock prints were highly influential to the modern art movement in 19th century France
  • Artists such as Manet, Degas, Gauguin and van Gogh were impacted by the medium, and incorporated effects similar to those of woodblock prints into their artistic practice as a whole
  • Woodcut is also sometimes called xylography

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