Monday, November 17, 2008

An Impressive Monotype

Grade Level: 9-10 grade

Brief History/Background:

Monotyping is a type of printmaking made by drawing or painting on a smooth, non-absorbent surface. The surface, or matrix, was historically a copper etching plate, but in contemporary work it can vary from zinc or glass to acrylic glass. The image is then transferred onto a sheet of paper by pressing the two together, usually using a printing press. Monotypes can also be created by inking an entire surface and then, using brushes or rags, removing ink to create a subtractive image, e.g. creating lights from a field of opaque color. The inks used may be oil based or water based. With oil based inks, the paper may be dry, in which case the image has more contrast, or the paper may be damp, in which case the image has a 10 percent greater range of tones.

Unlike monoprinting, monotyping produces a unique print, or monotype, because most of the ink is removed during the initial pressing. Although subsequent reprintings are sometimes possible, they differ greatly from the first print and are generally considered inferior. A second print from the original plate is called a "ghost print" or "cognate". Stencils, watercolor, solvents, brushes, and other tools are often used to embellish a monotype print. Monotypes are often spontaneously executed and with no previous sketch.

The monotype process was invented by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-64), an Italian painter and etcher who was also the first artist to produce brushed sketches intended as finished and final works of art (rather than as studies for another work). He is the only Italian to have invented a printmaking technique. He began to make monotypes in the 1640s, normally working from black to white, and produced over twenty surviving ones, over half of which are set at night (Theseus finding the Arms of his Father, 1643). Few other artists used the technique until Degas, who made several, often working on them further after printing (Beside the Sea, 1876-7). In the twentieth century the technique became more popular.

Impressionism was a 19th century art movement that began as a loose association of Paris-based artists, who began exhibiting their art publicly in the 1860s. The name of the movement is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satiric review published in Le Charivari.

Characteristics of Impressionist painting include visible brushstrokes, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

Radicals in their time, early Impressionists broke the rules of academic painting. They began by giving colors, freely brushed, primacy over line, drawing inspiration from the work of painters such as Eugene Delacroix. They also took the act of painting out of the studio and into the world. Previously, not only still lifes and portraits, but also landscapes, had been painted indoors, but the Impressionists found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight by painting en plein air. Painting realistic scenes of modern life, they emphasized vivid overall effects rather than details. They used short, "broken" brush strokes of pure and unmixed color, not smoothly blended, as was customary, in order to achieve the effect of intense color vibration.

Berthe Morisot
Berthe Morisot (January 14, 1841 – March 2, 1895) was a painter and a member of the circle of painters in Paris who became known as the Impressionists. Morisot was born in Bourges, France into a successful bourgeois family. Both she and her sister Edma Morisot chose to become painters. Once Berthe Morisot settled on pursuing art, her family did not impede her career.

In 1864, she exhibited for the first time in the highly esteemed Salon de Paris. Sponsored by the government, and judged by academicians, the Salon was the official, annual exhibition of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris. Her work was selected for exhibition in six subsequent Salons[1] until, in 1874, she joined the "rejected" Impressionists in the first of their own exhibitions, which was founded by Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley. It was held at the studio of the photographer Nadar.

She became the sister-in-law of her friend and colleague, Édouard Manet, when she married his brother, Eugène. Her works include, not only landscapes, portraits, garden settings, and boating scenes, but also subjects portraying the comfort and intimacy of family and domestic life, as did her colleagues, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Mary Cassatt.

National Standards: Art materials and process (1); Aesthetics (2); Art History/Cultures (4); Criticism/Evaluation (5)

PA Standards: World History (8.4); Production, Performance and Exhibition of Dance, Music, Theatre and Visual Arts (9.1); Historical/Cultural Contexts (9.2); Critical Response (9.3); Aesthetic Response (9.4)

Goal: Students will demonstrate Impressionist painting techniques (i.e. Berthe Morisot) (quick line gesture, color) to create a monotype of a still life.

Requirements: Students will create a monotype print of a still life using water-based paints and Impressionist painting techniques on plexiglass.

Resource Materials/Visual Aids:

Teaching Board
View from the Terrace at Mezy (1890) – Berthe Morisot
In the Garden (Women Gathering Flowers) – Berthe Morisot
View of the Bois de Boulogne (1889)
Examples of Monotypes
Exemplar for Project

Supplies/Materials: 11x14 piece of BK Reeves printmaking paper (or 90 lb. drawing paper) 11x14 piece of plexiglass (taped around the edges), gouache (red, blue, yellow, white), brushes (any size), brayers, spray bottle, water dishes, sponges, straws, paper towels, paper plates, 19th century classical music (French), CD player

Teacher Preparation:

1. Research and find examples of Impressionist paintings by Morisot involving gardens (flowers)
2. Tape edges of plexiglass with duct tape to prevent injuries
3. Make teaching board
4. Produce an exemplar

Introduction – Ask students to define the word impression (to make a mark by applying pressure). Ask them if an impression has to be a detailed representation or can it be a series of marks and shapes that captures the subject. Discuss impressionism through the paintings of Berthe Morisot. Explain how Impressionist painters were not concerned with rendering an exact image, but were more concerned with the overall effects of a painting rather than details; used active, visible brushstrokes; created movement in their paintings; emphasized light; worked outside en plein air; used ordinary subject matter and pure color from the tube.

Explain that, although the Impressionists painted on canvas in oil paints, there are other ways to make an impression of something and have students name a few. Explain the idea of a monotype and how it works (reverse image, plate). Explain to students that they will be working from a floral still life and making their own Impressionist monotype. Review few painting elements while they work (overlapping, composition, color choices.) Demonstrate during before and during the lesson.


1. Before beginning the monotype activity, make sure your plexiglass is clean of paints, inks or marks that could transfer onto your monotype print. Sometimes surprises are fun, but they can also be frustrating if they do not work with your painting.

2. Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine it is a warm, spring day in Paris, France, and you, Berthe Morisot, have gathered your painting supplies to embark on a day of painting in a garden. The sun is shining brightly and the colors of the flowers in the garden seem to have come directly from a tube of paint. There is a slight breeze and the flowers move back and forth to the rhythm of the wind. You can hear music in the distance, which you believe to be a result of a boating party along the Seine River. The soft scents of spring are all around you –fresh freesia and white gardenia - and you take them all in one with one deep breath. You can’t wait to begin painting.

3. Open your eyes and take a look at the still life. If you are not pleased with your view of the still life, move your seat to a more satisfying view. Remember, you are an impressionist, so you are not looking to create a detailed image of the flowers in the garden. You want your brushstrokes to be spontaneous and quick, and your colors full of light to achieve an overall “impression” of the flowers. Keep in mind your overall composition and use overlapping to show depth.

4. You have been given four colors – the three primary colors and white. Berthe Morisot would have used colors directly from the tube as did her Impressionist painter friends, but due to limited supplies, you will have to mix your colors to achieve orange, purple, green (the secondary colors). Make a few quick, gestural marks on your plexiglass to get a feel for the paint and surface. Wipe it away with a damp paper towel.

5. You have about 10 minutes to create a painting of the flowers. Be sure to cover as much of the plexiglass as possible. Please be aware that gouache can dry rather quickly, so using your straw to add a small bit of water every now and then is a good idea. Be careful not to add too much water or your paints will be runny! The more water you add, the less intense your colors will be. If you need to erase a mark, dampen a paper towel and wipe it from the plexiglass.

6. Once you are finished, put your painting aside. Wipe up any paint they may have gotten on the table with a paper towel. Take the printmaking paper and place it in front of you. Take your sponge and moisten it with water. Squeeze out excess water. Water should not be dripping from your sponge, but it should be moist enough to wet your printmaking paper.

7. Move your sponge back and forth across your paper, pressing gently. Make sure you sponge the entire paper. Be careful not to squeeze water onto your paper. You want to be able to tell its wet, but not soaking wet. If it seems too dry, press a little harder with your sponge. I will come around and check it.

8. Take your wet paper and slowly place it on top of the plexiglass. The size of the plexiglass and your paper are the same, so try and match up the corners to keep your painting from being crooked. Take your time! Work slowly!

9. Once you have your paper on your plexiglass, slowly, and with pressure, rub the paper with your hand. Hold the plexiglass still with your other hand. After you’ve rubbed the entire paper, take a brayer and with a forward motion only, roll over the paper a few times.

10. Lift a corner to check and see if your painting transferred. Remember, you will only get one monotype print from this painting. Depending on how much paint you used, you may get a second print called a ghost print.

11. Slowly peel the paper from the plexiglass and set the paper aside to dry.

12. Wet a paper towel and wipe your plate until all the paint is removed.

13. Rinse brushes, empty water and throw away paper plates. Place sponges in the bucket.

Closure – Students will clean –up and return supplies to their proper storage area to prepare for critique/discussion.


Critique the final monotypes and discuss challenges of the medium, if any.

Evaluate student’s success and understanding of impressionism and the monotype process by looking at their final monotypes.

Assess student comprehension of Impressionism and monotypes through a project rubric.

Extensions: Students who finish early can continue to make more monotypes by focusing on a different floral arrangement, moving to get a different perspective, perhaps abstracting the flowers in some way or students can embellish their existing monotype with other media.

Time Budget:

Introduction and Motivation/Demo – 10
Class Demonstration/Participation – 30 minutes
Activity – 45-minute session

Vocabulary: monotype, Impressionism, Berthe Morisot, gesture, plexiglass, brayer, gouache, spontaneous brushstrokes, printmaking

Safety Concerns: Remind students to be careful with the plexiglass. Even though the edges have been duct taped, they could scratch themselves.


Stuckey, Charles F., Scott, William P., Lindsay, Susan G.
Berthe Morisot: Impressionist

No comments: