Erotic Print Makers
Prints have been a popular medium for artists for centuries, from the basic woodblock prints of the Japanese, to the sophisticated lithography techniques of the Europeans.
Woodcutting is one of the earliest methods of printing. An artist would draw a design on a block of wood, and then the artist or another skilled individual would cut away the parts of the wood which wouldn't receive ink, creating a relief. The block is then covered in ink and applied to paper or cloth to make a print. Japan is most famous for this method of printing and their erotic prints known as Shunga. The Europeans were also adept with this technique though the method was usually used for religious text and so there are very few European erotic prints produced as woodcuts.
Engraving developed in Germany around 1430. The technique involves using a hard and sharp implement to scratch lines on a metal plate, usually copper. Ink is then applied to the plate and then wiped off leaving paint in the grooves formed, but not on the smooth surface of the plate. The plate is then put through a high pressure press to form a print. This was the technique used for Thomas Rowlandson's erotic prints.
Etching is also a printing technique that used metal plates, however with etching the metal plate would be coated in some protective layer, like wax, and then the artists would scrape away at the layer to form his image. The plate would then be immersed in a corrosive fluid that eats away at the exposed metal to form lines. This was much easier for artists than engraving directly onto a hard metal plate. Engraving was the technique used by Rembrandt and Felicien Rops for his erotic prints.
Lithography is a technique invented in 1798 that uses aquaphobic and aquaphilic properties to arrange the ink on a plate. An image would be drawn by the artist onto a porous surface like limestone using some greasy or oily compound. Oil of course repels water so when a water based ink or paint is applied to the surface, the ink moves away from the greasy areas and rests on the bare limestone. The plate can then be applied to paper to form a print. This was a very popular method for producing erotic prints and was used by Achille Deveria and Paul Avril.
Around the 17th century, the novel quickly became the most popular printed material in Europe, and its popularity escalated during the 1800s with Romantic literature. As a result, many very talented artists made illustrations for these books, and although they may not have produced prints themselves, their illustrations were intended to be reproduced in print form so these artists are included here as well. These illustrators include Aubrey Beardsley, Franz von Bayros, Martin van Maele, and Mihaly Zichy, who wasn't an illustrator, though did make many printed portfolios of his own ink drawings.
Japanese Erotic Art - Shunga
Martin van Maele
Franz von Bayros