Wood Cut

The woodcut is the art of engraving on wood by hollowing out with chisels areas of a plank, usually cherry wood, pear, apple or boxwood, leaving a design on the surface. The transfer of this design on to paper is achieved by inking the surface with typographic ink and applying pressure with a press. The woodcut technique was used for decorating textiles in China from as early as the 5th Century AD and by the 15th century it was applied to religious images and playing cards in Europe. The finest exponents of the woodcut in 16th century Europe were the Germans, Albrecht Durer, Hans Holbein and Lucas Cranach.

By the early 19th century, woodcuts were largely supplanted in commercial work by the technique of wood engraving (a more exact process where the design is incesed on the end of a hardwood block) and it wasn't until the latter part of that century when artist rediscovered woodcuts as a medium of artistic expression. Among these were Edvard Munch, who used softwoods and Paul Gaugin, who achieved interesting effects by sanding the wood. The Japanese, traditional masters of the woodcut, must be acknowledged as important forerunners of much of the work done by Westerners throughout the 20th century.