Evolution of a Mary Huntoon Print

Other than a few early lithographs, every print Mary Huntoon created was an intaglio, an umbrella term for any printmaking technique in which an image is carved into a metal plate. Huntoon typically began her process with a drawing and then incised the outlines of her composition on metal or zinc plate using the techniques of engraving or etching. To make an engraving, Huntoon incised lines by hand directly into a metal plate with a carving tool called a burin. To make an etching, Huntoon coated her plate with an acid-resistant ground through which she lightly scratched her design with a stylus, revealing the bare metal below. She then immersed the plate in an acid bath that etched the exposed lines into the plate. For both techniques, she then pushed ink into the incised lines, cleaned the surface of the plate, and then printed it with a press.

Sometimes, Huntoon would make further changes to her prints, thus creating a new state of the composition. Typically, these changes were additions of tone achieved via the technique of aquatint. To make an aquatint, Huntoon sprinkled a powdered resin on the plate before immersing the plate in an acid bath. The result is a finely textured tonal area whose darkness is determined by how long the plate is in contact with the acid. In this case, you can compare the first state of The Artist to the second state, renamed Fredda. You can also compare the first and second states of The Question, as well as the copper plate used to print the second state. Areas where Huntoon used a varnish to block out the effect of aquatint completely read as the white of the paper or the shine of the copper plate, and areas where sections of aquatint spent shorter periods in the acid bath read as shades of gray.

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<em>The Artist</em>

The Artist, 1935. Etching; first state of two. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

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<em>Fredda</em>

Fredda, 1948. Aquatint, etching; second state of two. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

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<em>The Question</em>

Copper plate for The Question, 1948. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

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<em>1st Home in the Basement</em>

1st Home in the Basement, 1935. Engraving; first state of two. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

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<em>The Question</em>

The Question, 1948. Aquatint, engraving; second state of two. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.