Art Term

Woodcut

A method of relief printing from a block of wood cut along the grain

Tony Bevan, ‘Portrait Man’ 1994
Tony Bevan
Portrait Man 1994
Tate
© Tony Bevan

The block is carved so that an image stands out in relief. The relief image is then inked and paper placed against its surface before being run through a press. It is possible to make a woodcut without a press (Japanese Ukiyo-e prints for example) by placing the inked block against a sheet of paper and applying pressure by hand.

Woodblock printing was used in Europe from the twelfth century, at first for printing textiles, though images were printed on paper by the late fourteenth century.

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