Studio: international art — 44.1908

Page: 268
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The Etchings of Dr. Otto Campert

The etchings of dr. otto


More than ten years ago I was writing a series
of articles on English etchers for a Vienna art
magazine, and applied, among others, to Mr.
Oliver Hall for permission to reproduce some of
his fine work. Upon that occasion he favoured
me with a letter in which he discussed the question
of soft-ground etching. I was at liberty to publish
the substance of it then, and I feel sure he will
have no objection to my repeating the principal
passages upon the present occasion, as it has not
lost any of its interest in course of time. He wrote:
“To me the subject is an extremely interesting
one, and the more I study it, the more its possi-
bilities as a distinctive art become apparent. I
claim for it a position between that of mezzotint
engraving on the one hand and etching on the
other. I have made it a special study this past
winter, for I know of hardly anyone (unless it is
Frank Short) who understands or recognises its
capabilities. Unfortunately, at the present day
the public cannot, or will not, see the qualities of

this art. Even the etchers themselves (except a
few) understand little but the pure line. We want
a good deal more breadth of interest and feeling
amongst them !

“ I want to dwell more on the capabilities of
the art! The quality of line that you get with
1 soft ground ’ is peculiarly that of softness and
richness, as opposed to the more wiry line of
ordinary etching. It is not unlike the lithographic
line, only in lithography it is difficult, if not im-
possible, to get strength without blackness. How
far complete tonality can be got as in mezzotint
engraving I cannot yet say, but one must not
forget that (as in many of the arts) its chief charm
is its suggestiveness, so that if all the more delicate
gradations of tone could be got, it is a question
whether it would be desirable.

“ Frankly to put tone where you want it, and to
leave the rich expressive line to indicate form else-
where, should be the object of the artist.

“Where I have found ‘soft ground’ ot most
use is, I think, in doing skies. In pure line
etching the sky can only be indicated by the
fewest lines, for if you try to express tone by re-
peated filling-in with short lines, the whole spirit of

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