Monotyping is a type of printmaking made by drawing or painting on a smooth, non-absorbent surface. The surface, or matrix, was historically a copper etching plate, but in contemporary work it can vary from zinc or glass to acrylic glass.
The image is then transferred onto a sheet of paper by pressing the two together, usually using a printing-press. Monotypes can also be created by inking an entire surface and then, using brushes or rags, removing ink to create a subtractive image, e.g. creating lights from a field of opaque colour.
The inks used may be oil based or water based. With oil based inks, the paper may be dry, in which case the image has more contrast, or the paper may be damp, in which case the image has a 10 percent greater range of tones.
Monotyping produces a unique print, or monotype; most of the ink is removed during the initial pressing.
Although subsequent reprintings are sometimes possible, they differ greatly from the first print and are generally considered inferior. These prints from the original plate are called "ghost prints."
A print made by pressing a new print onto another surface, effectively making the print into a plate, is called a "cognate". Stencils, watercolor, solvents, brushes, and other tools are often used to embellish a monotype print. Monotypes can be spontaneously executed and with no previous sketch.
The monotype process was invented by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609–64), an Italian painter and etcher who was also the first artist to produce brushed sketches intended as finished and final works of art (rather than as studies for another work). He is the only Italian to have invented a printmaking technique. He began to make monotypes in the 1640s, normally working from black to white, and produced over twenty surviving ones, over half of which are set at night.
William Blake developed a different technique, painting on millboard in egg tempera to produce both new works and coloured impressions of his prints and book illustrations, including his Pity. Each impression was usually then worked over by hand, using ink and watercolour.
Few other artists used the technique until Degas, who made several, often working on them further after printing (Beside the Sea, 1876-7); Pissarro also made several. Paul Gauguin used a variant technique involving tracing, later taken up by Paul Klee. In the twentieth century the technique became more popular, such as the extraordinary colorful monotypes created by Marc Chagall in the 1960s.<Marc Chagall Monotypes, Gerald Cramer, Editor Geneva 1966/ref>
Christina's World (1948)
Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Tempera and gesso on panel.
Portrait of Ginevra d'Este (1434)
Louvre, Paris. Tempera on Wood.
By Antonio Pisanello
Edgar Degas, The Fireside, 1876-1877
Pissaro, Vacherie le soir, 1890
Tempera (also called egg tempera) was a method of painting that superceded the encaustic painting method, only to be itself replaced by oil painting. Its name stems from the Latin word temperare, meaning 'to mix in proportion'. Unlike encaustic paints which contain beeswax to bind the colour pigments, or oil paints which use oils, tempera employs an emulsion of water, egg yolks or whole eggs (occasionally with a little glue, honey or milk).
Characteristics: Advantages, Disadvantages
Tempera is typically applied onto a prepared surface. Wood panel paintings, for instance, were prepared with layers of gesso (a mixture of size and chalk) to form a smooth surface. The tempera was then applied (over a prepared drawing or sketch) and built up slowly in a series of thin, transparent layers. Unlike oil paint, tempera cannot be applied too thickly, and thus lacks the deep colouration of oils. But tempera paintings are very long lasting and colours do not deteriorate over time, unlike oil paints which tend to darken or lose colour with age. It dries rapidly, and when dry it produces a smooth matte finish. The main disadvantage - apart from the time-consuming need to apply it in thin layers - is that tempera paintings cannot usually attain the deep colour saturation that oil paintings are able to manage.
Tempera painting techniques seem to have originated in Antiquity. Alas, due to the perishable nature of the medium, as well as the inevitable looting, not a single important example of Classical Greek painting in tempera has survived. However, numerous works in tempera have been recorded in Egyptian art - notably the Fayum Mummy Portraits (c.50 BCE - 250 CE). Tempera was also a popular medium in Roman Art: the best extant example is the "Severan Tondo" (c.200 CE, Antikensammlung Berlin), a portrait of the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus with his family, painted on a circular wooden panel.