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Drawing and engraving : a brief exposition of technical principles and practice by Philip Gilbert Hamerton

Drawing and engraving

There was very little choice about the method of treatment, as the subjects were vast and the space rigorously limited. I could only say what was most important and say even that laconically. The style of the papers had to be simply didactic. As a rule, I am unwilling to assume an authoritative tone, but may have as much right to it as anybody else, after giving the best part of forty years to the study of these or cognate subjects. The first knowledge that ought to be acquired about drawing and engraving whether by artists, or critics, or simple lovers of art, concerns technical conditions and necessities. 

Some critics profess a contempt for this practical knowledge as if it were unworthy of a cultivated man's attention, and although artists cannot do without it they too often limit their technical curiosity to their own specialty in art. Yet it is easy to demonstrate that technical conditions govern even genius itself. The whole nature and inspiration of Rembrandt's production on copper would have been changed if some authority had compelled him to employ the slow and severe burin instead of the free and rapid etching-needle.

If the criticism of Dlirer's day had been learned enough to impose upon him a demand for the truth of tone, that simple exigency would have forbidden the existence of his art; he would have had to learn an entirely different kind of engraving which would have required another condition of mind. 

If Marc Antonio had been forced to imitate the texture and translate local color into black and white he could never have occupied the position of a great classical master, the mere addition of these inferior truths would have sacrificed the dignity and nobility of his

style. The genius of Turner, whose originality lay in the expression of mystery and infinity, could never have found utterance in the compulsory clearness and simplicity of fresco, nor could he have engraved his own ideas with a burin as he did in etching and mezzotint.

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