woodcut and wood engraving: Decline and Revival

There was a decline in woodcutting with the increasing versatility and popularity of line engraving on metal. Even in the Netherlands, where woodcuts lasted longest, they were almost obsolete by the 18th cent. In England, however, Thomas Bewick popularized wood engraving. He brought to perfection the technique of white-line engraving, in which lines print white on a black background. Gustave Doré was the best-known French master in this medium in the 19th cent.

William Blake also made wood engravings for some of his best book illustrations (e.g., for Thornton's Vergil; 1821). The Victorian weeklies used numerous wood-engraved drawings as illustrations. Most famous of English wood engravers were John Swain and the Dalziel brothers. In the United States wood engraving was practiced from the 19th cent. by such masters as Alexander Anderson, William James Linton, and Timothy Cole.

As photographic technology advanced, photography and photographic processes slowly replaced woodcut as a means of book illustration and wood engraving for reproduction of oil paintings. In the 1890s in France a revival of woodcutting to produce original prints was initiated by Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch, and Felix Vallotton, who cut their blocks themselves. Their influence on 20th-century expression in this medium was enormous. Derain, Dufy, and Maillol also made notable woodcuts. After World War II many artists in the United States, such as Leonard Baskin, Sue Fuller, and Seong Moy, explored new formal and technical possibilities in the medium of woodcutting.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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