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-LeeEnglish Stipple Engraving

English Stipple Engraving

As a student in Paris the English engraver Thomas Wynne Ryland (1733–1783) noted the new techniques of crayon and pastel engraving, and much later adapted them to the process which came to be called stipple engraving. (Ryland was incidentally also known for engraving forged bills of exchange, the cause of his relatively early death by hanging.)

The principle lines of the design were first established by the use of dotted lines made with a curved graver into an etching ground (see “Etching”). The surface of the plate was then worked on directly, all over, with the same curved graver in a series of dots and flicks, and sometimes with the roulette too, to give broad areas of continuous tone similar to pastel engraving but vermicular in texture, rather than the granular lines of crayon engraving.

Though stipple engraving is quintessentially English, it is most identified with the Italian engraver Francesco Bartolozzi (1727–1815) who settled in England in 1761 and recognised the potential of stipple for reproducing what Arthur Hind described as the “slight subjects of graceful fancy” (see below right) typical of his friends the fellow Italian G.B. Cipriani and the Swiss Angelica Kauffmann, who both also settled in London. Bartolozzi took the fashionable English market by storm, reflected in his being the only engraver (until 1928!) to be honoured with full Fellowship of the newly founded Royal Academy.

Franceso Bartolozzi (1727–1815): Young Woman by a Window. Stipple engraving with etching, 1804 , after George Chinnery. (220 x 200 mm)

Franceso Bartolozzi (1727–1815): "Young Woman by a Window". 
Stipple engraving with etching, 1804 , after George Chinnery.  (220 x 200 mm)

At the height of his success he had fifty pupils in his workshop. Bartolozzi’s most prominent pupils of the next generation were Luigi Schiavonetti, Peltro William Tomkins, Charles Knight, Giovanni Vendramini, William Bond and Anthony Cardon. They worked to the designs of artists such as William Hamilton, William Redmore Bigg, William Westall, Thomas Stothard and Francis Wheatley. Wheatley painted his famous series of “The Cries of London” specifically to be published as stipple engravings.

Stipple engraving did not long outlast Bartolozzi’s departure to Lisbon in 1802. Its use was virtually confined to England (despite many of its best practitioners being Continentals resident in England) and to the last decades of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. A short-lived revival at the end of the 19th century was merely for the purposes of re-engraving the most popular 18th century plates as a commercial venture to exploit would-be investors at a period when fine 18th century impressions had come back into vogue with collectors and were commanding high prices.

Though grandiose schemes like ‘The Shakespeare Gallery’ of John Boydell, Lord Mayor of London, were intended to be bound, most stipple engravings were used as furnishing items, framed-up to hang as decoration. Old master prints traditionally were mounted into albums to be studied; framing prints as wall decoration was only introduced in a large way in the 18th century.


Caroline Watson (1758–1814): "Portrait of Benjamin West".  Stipple engraving, 1785, after the painting by Gilbert Stuart.  (220 x 163 mm)


“Child playing with a Cat”

An English 18th century ‘fancy piece’ of a
“Child playing with a Cat”.
Stipple engraving printed in colours
(See also colour intaglio page)


See also :

INTAGLIO PRINTS - A General Introduction

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

Colour Printed Intaglio Prints

Return to top ^