technical monotype

Jean-Baptiste Sécheret, Brindisi fond ocre2004, monotype in enhanced colors.

Monotype is an artistic technique that is little-known to the general public, but inspiring for artists. This spontaneous printing process is an art form in its own right. practiced by some of the greatest names in art history.

The monotype technique gives rise to unique works of art with stunning effects that can't be achieved any other way. Artists can experiment with different textures, colors and effects to create original prints that capture their artistic vision. Because of the unique nature of the practice, these expressive works are highly prized by art lovers and seasoned collectors looking for unique and rare pieces.

What is a monotype?

A non-engraving printing process

The monotype technique is an art printing technique without engraving that produces a single print. The process combines elements of drawing, painting and printing. The result is a print from an image traced on a non-porous surface, usually a glass or metal plate, by applying ink or paint. This is a single impression, hence the name monotype, obtained by pressing the paper against the plate.

Unlike the etching technique, this creative process is carried out without having to chisel or notch the plate. The image is created directly on the plate, covered with an appropriate medium (ink, acrylic or oil paint), which is then transferred to paper, either using a printing press or manual pressure. The monotype gives rise to a unique print, so it's an original work.

What materials are used?

Monotype is a creative process that requires a rigid support such as a glass plate, metal, Plexiglas or strong cardboard. To create a monotype print, we most often use oil-based or water-based printing ink, oil paint, gouache or acrylic. Depending on how it is used, the same medium can create different effects.

The difference with other types of prints

What distinguishes monotype from other printing techniques, such as woodcut, lithography or evenetching where several identical prints can be produced, is that it produces a single copy of the work of art. The result is often characterized by transparent effects, fluid strokes and an unpredictable quality, giving the monotype a unique and spontaneous character.

Indeed, with this printmaking process (our prints in Paris), the artist paints on the matrix, but only discovers his work after it has been printed on paper. It is also possible to print a second print, called a "ghost" print, which is made with the ink residue on the matrix. This will be much weaker than the first print, sometimes being a mere trace of the original work.

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The origins of the monotype

The monotype technique was invented by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione in the 17th century, who produced numerous religious monotypes. Almost forgotten, the monotype technique was rediscovered by Edgar Degas in the 19th century, who popularized it, particularly among the Impressionists. He explored new creative possibilities with richly colored backgrounds, full of texture and movement, which he then sublimated with pastels.

Monotype has grown in popularity among modern artists over the years, including such renowned artists as Paul Gauguin, Camille Pissarro, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Today, monotype continues to be practiced by many contemporary artists, such as Jean-Baptiste Sécheretwho explore this technique and adapt it to their artistic style and vision.

Monotype technique puts creativity to the test

A form of individual expression

Because of its spontaneous and expressive nature, monotype leaves room for great artistic freedom. artistic freedom and experimental freedom. This printing process allows creative flights of fancy on many levels, accentuating the unique character of a monotype: from the tool to the plate, from the type of ink to the extent of movement. Artists are free to use a variety of techniques to create different effects, such as applying ink with brushes, rollers, rags or other diverted objects that leave their mark on the medium used.

This infinite wealth of expression allows for a wide range of results, from abstract images to detailed figurative representations. With the monotype technique, the work and its effects are not fixed until the print is made, leaving the artist with a wealth of creative possibilities.

Endless creative opportunities

With monotype, the artist cannot anticipate the result of his work. As such, discovering the printed result can sometimes prove disappointing, but the artist can return to his proof and rework it in other media. He can enhance and accentuate the motif and colors by enriching his work with pastels, watercolors or colored pencils, for example.

The proof thus enhanced is "doubly" a unique creation: it is a one-off printed work, retouched by the artist's hand. 

Serial production

The monotype technique makes it possible to work on a subject in series, while producing only one-of-a-kind works. Once the drawing has been printed, the mark left on the plate is generally legible and can be reworked with ink. On this basis, the artist can create a new version of the monotype and reprint it, for example with other colors or a different paper.

The place of monotypes on the art market

As an artistic printing technique, the monotype occupies a unique place on the art market. Less well known than other art forms, it continues to have a a significant and appreciated presence on the art market thanks to its inexhaustible artistic potential.

The art market is constantly evolving, marked by changing trends and diverse artistic movements. Whether it's painting, sculpture, photography or other forms of artistic expression, collectors and art lovers are constantly on the lookout for unique pieces that resonate with their aesthetic sensibilities. 

Are you a collector or art lover? Visit Galerie Arenthon, Art Gallery in Paris, presents prints, monotypes, etchings, art posters, illustrated books and other works enabling you to discover the work of great artists through printmaking.