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It is not known who first used linoleum as an alternative to wood for relief printmaking.

Lino itself, a mixture of ground cork and linseed oil with a canvas backing, was patented as early as 1860 as floor covering. A Czech, Franz Cizek, professor in Vienna, encouraged his students to make linocuts in the early years of the 20th century and its cheapness and comparable ease of handling has led to its extensive use in schools; along with potato cuts (also a relief method) it is most school children’s first introduction to printmaking.

Though impressions of linocuts can look very similar to woodcuts, there is generally a distinctive slightly raised inky edge defining the printed areas, which is not present in woodcut or wood engraving. As lino is manufactured in large sheets it allows relief prints from a single block on a previously unprecedented scale. Picasso in particular exploited the possibilities of large sheets of lino.

The soft flakey surface does not lend itself to fine detail but is ideal for bold designs with strong contrasts and large unworked areas. This makes it particularly suited to colour printing, with which the technique is largely identified. However a few isolated artists also made the occasional striking monochrome (single block) image.

See also the page dedicated to Colour linocut


Mary Fairclough (Born 1913):
Above: Mary Fairclough (Born 1913):
"Neptune in a Seahorse-drawn Chariot".
Linocut.  (155 x 95 mm)

See also :

RELIEF PRINTING - An Introduction

Wood Engraving

Hand-coloured Woodcut
Chiaroscuro Woodcut
Modern Colour Woodcut
Colour Linocut
Colour Wood Engraving