Research Point – Degas’ monoprints

Degas was introduced to monoprinting by a friend who was and amateur printmaker using etching. His earliest prints used black ink rolled out on to a plate and then worked into negatively. He said he could work more spontaneously in monoprint than drawing. Presumably he used etching ink initially and the ink retains every mark he made by brushing, wiping, drawing into the ink and manipulating it with his fingers.Working into a dark field gives these prints terrific drama.

The Tub c 1885 Monotype 42 x54 cm from 'Dega by himself, Drawings, prints, paintings,writings Edited by Richard Kendall, MacDonald Orbis, London, 1987

Degas (1987) ‘The Tub c 1885’. [Monotype, 42 x54 cm] In
Degas by himself. Drawings, prints, paintings,writings.  London: MacDonald Orbis, p190

Most  of these dark field prints were intimate interiors where he has been able to draw the lamplight by removing the ink. You can see where he has used different implements for different effects, a pen perhaps for the hard lines of the hand and sponge, maybe a brush for the folds of the curtains, and something softer for the ewer. He has been able to produce an amazing range of tones and textures. Clearly many areas are implied rather than stated in detail but this just adds to the atmosphere of dim lamplight.

Getting Into Bed, Monotype, 38x28cm, as above

Degas (1987) ‘Getting Into Bed  c1885’. [Monotype 38x28cm] ,  as above, p186

Here you can see where he has wiped or brushed the folds of the bed canopy and then drawn back into it for further highlights and detail. He has completely wiped the lampshade, removing all tone, to suggest the light source. He has made her legs and arm smooth and pale by removing all texture and given her head importance by adding the hard, lace detail. These prints look so simple but they are really subtle.

He often printed the ghost of his monoprint and the worked back into it with pastels. In this later work, he has used blue/gray ink with pastel over, and the total effect is less dramatic, softer and more painterly.

Woman Squatting, Monotype 1879, as above.

Degas (1987) ‘Woman Squatting 1879’. [Monotype 18 x 14cm], as above, p188

He also made monoprints of landscapes, though here he seems to have used multiple colours and worked both additively and subtractively. He did these from memory.

Landscape c1890-1893, Monotype 29.5x39cm, as above

Degas (1987) ‘L’Esterel c1890-1892’. [Monotype 30x40cm], as above, p264

Here he seems to have applied stripes of colour and then worked back into them, wiping, mixing, re-adding. This next print is even simpler,. The ink seems to have bee applied either with a textured surface at the bottom left, or maybe the paper was pressed into the ink with a textures implement.

Landscape, Monotype c 29x39cm, as above,

Degas (1987) ‘Landscape, c1890-1893’. [Monotype 29x39cm] as above, p265

I am really looking forward to trying these methods myself. Having recently done a summer school looking at ballet, I feel a real Degas influence coming over me…..

NB The book I have drawn upon here describes these as monotypes. I thought that the distinction between monoprints and monotypes was that monotypes have some sort of reprintable element to them, and monoprints were absolutely and completely one off. I can’t, however, find any definitive authority for this.

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About starrybird

I am mature student studying art with The Open College of the Arts. My passion is printmaking.
This entry was posted in Degas' monoprints, Printmaking 1, Project 1 - First Monoprints, Research Points and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Research Point – Degas’ monoprints

  1. Pingback: המונוטייפ של דגא: שקרים המכוננים אמנות | מכרות נטושים

  2. I have just started printmaking 1 and researching Degas monoprints. I have enjoyed reading your blog and it has inspired me to get going with the module! Warm wishes
    Amanda

    • starrybird says:

      Thrilled to think I have inspired anyone. I am loving this course, though nearing the end. Thanks for the warm wishes. I hope you really enjoy the course.

  3. Jackie says:

    Gosh, this is so interesting! I knew about Degas’ dancers but didn’t know about the printing. It makes me regretting passing up a printmaking enterprise last year. 😦

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