cliche verre
Sun, 26 Nov 1995 23:29:31 -0500 (EST)

I've been a member of the list for about a year. While I've learned
a lot from the discussions, I haven't felt able to contribute since
I began working in alternative processes so recently. Now there is
a question about something I know something about: cliche verre.

I first learned about the process about three years ago when I was
working in printmaking and doing reading in the history of photography.
Since it was a combination of printmaking and photography, I thought
it was appropriate for my Christmas card that year. My first attempt
not surprisingly wasn't great, and I went on to other projects. Then
I was asked to give a short talk on the process to a camera club and
spent considerable time thinking about it and producing more prints.
I also found a discription of the process which differed from the
method used in the 19th century.

Cliche verre is literally a snapshot on glass. The artist produces
the negative by drawing or painting on glass (or other transparent
material). This negative is then used to make a contact print on
regular photographic paper (or you can use it as a negative for one
of the alternative processes).

There are two alternative ways of approaching the making of the
negative, each with two subdivisions:
1. Opaque plate: a) lines b) tones This is the historical method.
2. Clear plate: a) lines b) tones

1. Begin with an opaque surface: cover the glass with a layer of ink
or paint. (I have used letterpress ink and water soluble
block printing ink.)
a) Use a stylus to scratch lines through the opaque covering in
the way you would scratch through the ground making an etching.
b) If using water soluble ink, use a wet paint brush to remove
or lighten areas of the opaque covering.
2. Begin with the clear transparent surface.
a) Draw on lines with an indelible pen. This technique is similar
to cutting a wood or linoleum block since the lines will print
as white.
b) Paint on the picture using varying shades of paint to produce
tones. This technique can also be used with color paints
to produce color prints (on color printing paper).

You will feel more comfortable with certain techniques depending on
your background (printmaker or painter). However, you should try them
all as they produce *very* different effects.

The only book I have found with explicit (brief) how-to instructions
(using method 2.b) in both black-and-white and color) is:
Julia Ayres, Printmaking Techniques, Watson-Guptill, New York,
1993, pp.142-3.
For the history of the process and reproductions of three different
cliche verre prints by Corot who used the process most extensively see:
Beaumont Newhall, The History of Photography, The Museum of
Modern Art, New York, 1982, p. 83.
Donald Saff and Deli Sacilotto, Printmaking: History and Process,
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1978, p. 110.
Herman Wechsler, Great Prints and Printmakers, Leon Amiel, New
York, nd, pp. 31-32.
There is also a book which I believe was the result of a special
exhibit, probably in France (the text was in French and English).
I saw it at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC a few months
ago, but it was gone the last time I looked. I didn't get the
publisher, but the price was $46.95. This contains a discussion of
the process and a large number of reproductions by several different
artists. Alain Paviot, Le Cliche Verre.

Cliche verre is a fascinating process combining as it does elements
of printmaking and photography. Have fun experimenting.

Suzanne Izzo