Project 4 Research: Backdrawing

OCA Print making 1: An investigation into Back-drawing


For my research for this exercise, I initially carried out a search using the term
” backdrawing”. However this search term yielded limited results. However the search threw up a link to a blog by a fellow OCA student. A link to the blog, My Creative Journey, is provided here.
The blog suggested alternative terms such as trace and transfer monotype/ drawing. I decided to explore further using these terms, which led to information on artists such as Degas, Klee and Gaugin.

Edgar Degas 1834-1912

The artist Degas was known to have used a variety of techniques which allowed him to transfer drawings. His practice included: passing charcoal works through a press to transfer the image, and painting unmarked etching plates with oil paint and then drawing into them with a brush. He then removed areas of paint with a cloth before printing. This techniques helped to increase contrast between inked and unlinked areas of the plate.

Paul Gaugin 1848-1903

Searching with the term “Paul Gaugin trace monotype” led to further information on the history of the technique. The article also highlighted use of this technique by the artist Rembrandt, whose practice often involved inking and removing paint using wiping.
The artist Paul Gaugin used a method known as “Trace Monotype” in which paper is inked, another sheet place over it and a drawing made.

Paul Klee 1879-

Information from MOMA archives documents the techniques used by Paul Klee in the press release prepared for the Paul Klee Centennial: Prints and transfer drawings, 1978. The author describes how Klee made his own carbon transfer paper by inking the surface of tracing paper. He then placed his drawing over this paper and transferred it by puncturing the outline of the drawing with a needle, transferring the ink onto paper which had been placed beneath.




An example of a transfer drawing by Klee, Madonna, 1923 is discussed below.



Madonna, 1923 (oil transfer drawing and w/c on paper), Klee, Paul (1879-1940)
Medium; oil transfer drawing and watercolour on paper: Dimensions32x21.8 cms
Credit: Madonna, 1923 (oil transfer drawing and w/c on paper), Klee, Paul (1879-1940) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie’s Images / Bridgeman Images

The print shows the Madonna and child placed centrally on the picture plane, the child held in the mother’s arms. The drawing is very loose, particularly the handling of the facial features, which gives adds to the abstract feel of the print. The transfer technique has helped the artist to avoid a detailed representational drawing of the figures, adding to the abstract nature of the print. The underlying watercolour has been carried out using sienna tones which adds to the soft mood of the print. The figure of the child is shown full length, in contrast to the figure of the Madonna which stops just below the waist.
The work reflects Klee’s interest in Cubism, which demonstrates simplification of basic forms in a way often seen in primitive works of art, together with the use of familiar motifs. Gombrich, E.H, the Story of Art, Fifteenth Edition, Phaidon Press Limited, Oxford.




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