Wednesday, 4 January 2017

F. Walenn’s hyalograph print after the 4th century BC sculpture from Patras

F Walenn (fl, 1890s) (Note: Regarding Waleen’s activity as an illustrator, QCLC WoldCat.Identities offer the very limited timespan from 1895–96 for his publications; see:,%20f/ . As this print by Walenn was published by Hamerton in1892 there has been a minor oversight in the WorldCat.) 

“Marsyas”, 1892, after a 4th century BC statuette from Patras (now in the British Museum). Reproduced in Philip Gilbert Hamerton’s (1892) “Man in Art: Studies in Religious and Historical Art, Portrait, and Genre”, Macmillan, London, p. 34.

An online digital copy of this publication is available from

Hyalograph on cream wove paper
Size: (sheet) 30.3 x 19.2 cm; (plate) 25.9 x 16.4 cm; (image borderline) 21.2 x 12.5 cm
Inscribed in the plate towards the centre at lower right with the artist’s initials “FW”.
Lettered below the image borderline at centre: “IMP. CHARDON WITTMAN PARIS”

Condition: excellent impression in pristine condition.
This print may be of a low monitory value, but it is of great value to those interested in unusual technical processes. This print has been executed using the hyalograph process (i.e. a rare hybrid process of cliché-verre where a drawing on textured glass is transferred as a negative onto a printing plate that is then etched like an aquatint). If you are interested in acquiring this extraordinary print, I am offering it for AU$25 (currently US$18.14/EUR17.40/GBP14.77 at the time of this listing) in combination with the sale of other print(s).

I found myself in the “hot seat” (i.e. thoroughly interrogated) a day ago when a good printmaker friend came over for a visit and questioned me about my knowledge of the process of making a hyalograph. Oh no … bury my head in shame … I was caught out! I must now confess that my earlier post about the process was constructed from “things” that I remembered about the process rather than reporting from “proper” sources.

My friend insisted that we go through every volume in my library that was likely to give a well-informed explanation regarding hyalography. To our surprise even books that promised to give detailed descriptions about all printmaking processes fell short of their goals. In a way I felt vindicated in not bothering to research the process as only one book lived up to its promise: Bamber Gascoigne’s (2nd edition, 2004) “How to Identify Prints: A complete guide to manual and mechanical processes from woodcut to inkjet”, p, 33-D.

Although this book smudged the explanation under the heading “Electrotyped, with photography (warm rinsed)” an in-depth discussion is given. Gascoigne (2004) advises that his information about hyalography is based on Samuel Rogers’ (1865) explanation in “The Pleasure of Memory” which states that “the artist drew his design with a needle on a glass plate coated with an opaque substance” (ibid). Well … I did not wish to enter into a metacritique about different writers’ opinions, but I this information is wrong. What Rogers is describing is the beginning stage of a cliché-verre (like the Corot print from the last post). If one compares the opaque line of a cliché-verre and the translucent line of a hyalograph the difference is remarkable. In short Rogers is misinformed.

I decided to go back to Hamerton’s book where this print is reproduced to see what he had to say about hyalography and to my delight, a meaningful explanation is given on pages xiv–xv:

“A hyalograph is a drawing on glass—not common ground glass, but dispolished for the purpose with a very fine and even grain. The instruments used are chiefly the lead-pencil, the stump, and a brush charged with more of less diluted Indian ink. The drawing is transferred by light to a sensitized etching-ground, though the camera is not employed and there can be no reduction. … In the hyalograph the intervention of photography is reduced to a minimum—the passage of light through the glass. The plate is bitten like an aquatint.”

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