About the Linocut

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The linoleum cut or linocut is a form of relief print similar to the woodcut or wood engraving. Relief printing itself is the oldest method of printmaking. As a process, it involves cutting areas away from a smooth surface. What remains (i.e., that which has not be cut away) stands out in relief and forms the final printing surface. Ink is applied to this raised surface and the block pressed much like a stamp onto paper, fabric, etc. to obtain the printed image. The finished print is a mirror image or a left to right reversal of the block. The paper color appears where the block has been cut away; the ink color where it has not been cut away. Multiple colors can be obtained by cutting separate blocks for each color, by using the more sophisticated “subtraction” technique, or by hand coloring the image after it has been printed.

Linoleum, made from compressed cork and linseed oil, provides an excellent medium for this printing process. It is smooth, soft enough to cut easily and free of grain or an imposed cutting direction. At the same time, the “crumbly” texture of linoleum resists fine lines or close detail giving linocuts their characteristic high contrasts and broad color areas. It is a material which readily accepts tooling marks and allows for spontaneity of design. For these reasons, it has become a popular medium for many artists, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Lyonel Feninger among them.