Admission is always free Directions
Open today: 10:00 to 5:00

Photogravures

Constance McCabe

Alfred Stieglitz, Two Towers—New York, 1911, printed in or before 1913, photogravure on cream moderately thick smooth wove Japanese paper, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.3.326
Key Set number 352

View all photogravures in the Key Set

The photogravure is an intaglio print process that was sometimes used to produce high-quality reproductions of photographs in ink. A positive transparency of a photographic image is used to control the etching of a specially prepared metal plate. After etching in an acid bath, the plate is inked and the surface wiped, leaving ink behind in the etched pits. A sheet of damp paper is then placed on the inked plate and printed. Photogravures have a smooth, continuous tonal range, although an extremely fine grain is evident under magnification. Invented by William Henry Fox Talbot in the 1840s, the process was perfected by Karl V. Klíč in 1879 and was popular from the mid-1880s through the 1910s.

Alfred Stieglitz printed large editions of photogravures of his photographs from the mid-1890s to the mid-1910s, most of which he included in his periodicals Camera Notes, Camera Work, and 291, as well as his 1897 portfolio Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies. In the early 1910s, he also made larger photogravures of his photographs for exhibition and inclusion in an unrealized portfolio of pictures of New York City.

Stieglitz’s use of photogravure is further discussed in Julia Thompson’s essay “Stieglitz’s Portfolios and Other Published Photographs.”