Sono Frenchman has called the theatre a book reversed. It is a happy epigram. By a similar analogy the engraving or mezzotint might be described as a reversed picture. And with still more propriety black and white reproductions may be compared to the pianoforte in the hands of a skilful artist. The pianoforte can interpret in cooler tones orchestral scores. It gives in its all-formal severity the line; the colour is only suggested. But such is the tendency of modem music toward painting that the success of a pianoforte virtuoso today depends upon his ability to arouse within his listeners’ imagination the idea of colour in reality, the emotional element. The engraver evokes colour by his cunning interplay of line and cross hatching; the mezzotinter by his disposition of dark masses and white spaces. Indeed, the mezzotint by reason of its warm, more sympathetic, and ductile medium has always seemed more colourful in his plates than the most laboriously executed steel engravings. In this sense the scraper beats the burin, while the etcher, especially if he be a painter, attains a more personal vision than either one of these processes. The stone was made for the mystics,” say the Pennells. The revival of lithography by contemporary artists of fame is very welcome.
Above all, the appeal of engraving, mezzotint, and etching is to the refined. It is an art of a peculiarly intimate character. Just as some prefer the exquisite tonal purity and finished performances of the Kneisel String Quartet to the blare and thunder of the Philharmonic Society, just as some enjoy in silence beautiful prose more than our crude drama, so the lovers of black and white may feel themselves a distinctive class. They have at their elbow disposed in portfolios or spaced on walls the eloquent portraiture, the world’s master-pieces, marine views, and landscapes. There is no better way to study painting historically than in the cabinet of an engraving collector. Furthermore, divested of bad or mediocre paint many famous pictures by famous names are mere cartoons, the paint peeled or peeling off – the student and amateur penetrates to the very marrow of the painter’s conception, to the very skeleton of his technical methods.