Elizabeth Harvey-Lee Logo Elizabeth Harvey-Lee, Print Dealer Elizabeth Harvey-Lee | Print Dealer Elizabeth Harvey-Lee | Print Dealer
Click here to return to the Home page at any time
Further information about Elizabeth harvey-Lee
The methods and history of printmaking
Order back-copies of Elizabeth's previous printed catalogues
View this month's selection of prints
View Elizabeth's current on-line exhibition, and explore the archives
Contact Elizabeth Harvey-Lee
Elizabeth Harvey-Lee
Elizabeth Harvey-Lee
You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeTechniques Harvey-LeeIntaglio Introduction Harvey-LeeDrypoint


Detail of the burr on Albany Howarth’s collar and tie from A trial proof (full image shown right)In etching if the artist draws vigorously into the ground he may unintentionally score into the copper beneath. The origins of drypoint probably lie in such an accident. Though closely allied to and often used in conjunction with etching, pure drypoint, as its name implies, involves no use of wet acid. The artist works directly into the copper surface with a drypoint needle or a burin. In scoring the copper the needle raises a shaving of metal on either side of the furrow, which holds the ink and prints as a rich velvety smudge known as the “burr”. In engraving this is polished away to give a sharp clean-cut line but the residual burr is the chief characteristic and beauty of drypoint.

Repeated printing wears the burr away so that only a few (from twenty to forty) good drypoint impressions can be taken before the plate becomes tired. Steel facing, introduced in the etching boom when larger editions were in demand, increased a plate’s potential to a hundred or so impressions without signs of deterioration. Proofs prior to steel facing are always richer.

Steel facing has also been used to prolong artificially some of the plates of the Impressionist artists such as Renoir and Berthe Morisot, which are still being printed today, though all traces of burr have long since disappeared and the impressions print as ghosts by comparison with earlier impressions.

Depending on the amount of burr raised drypoint is used to create either strong furry lines, or in crosshatching a dark almost continuous tone, or a delicate silvery tone from the lines placed close together.

REMBRANDT Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669)

REMBRANDT Harmensz. van Rijn (1606-1669)
“The Triumph of Mordecai”. Etching and drypoint, c1641. (178 x 218 mm)

A few isolated examples of drypoint are found in the early Northern masters but Rembrandt was the first to develop the technique to any extent and from the 1640’s he used it increasingly on his plates in conjunction with the etched line.

Muirhead Bone (1876–1953): The Old Justiciary Court-House, Glasgow. 

Muirhead Bone (1876–1953): The Old Justiciary Court-House, Glasgow. 
Drypoint, 1911.  (133 x 199 mm)

It was only at the end of the 19th century and in the early decades of the 20th century that drypoint was exploited in its purest form. British artists, inspired initially by the example of Rembrandt, found the technique particularly sympathetic. Some, like Muirhead Bone (compared in his day to Rembrandt), Francis Dodd and Henry Rushbury devoted their printmaking to it almost exclusively. French artists of the Belle Epoque and the German Expressionists also found it a powerful medium of expression.


Albany Howarth (1872–1936): A Trial Proof. Drypoint, 1922. (155 x 110 mm)

Albany Howarth (1872–1936): "A Trial Proof". 
Drypoint, 1922.  (155 x 110 mm)

Francis Seymour Haden (1818-1910):
“Hands drypointing”.
Drypoint c1877. (139 x 212 mm)

Max Beckmann (1884–1950): Dame mit Knabe (The artist’s first wife and their son Peter). Drypoint, 1923. (212 x 154 mm)

Max Beckmann (1884–1950): "Dame mit Knabe".
(The artist’s first wife and their son Peter). 
Drypoint, 1923.  (212 x 154 mm)

See also :

INTAGLIO PRINTS - A General Introduction

Line Engraving
French Engraving in the Crayon and Pastel Manners
English Stipple Engraving
Soft-Ground Etching

Colour Printed Intaglio Prints

Return to top ^