Icart Lessons

An etching is made from a copper plate. The artist does his artwork directly on the plate, so the “original” is not available for sale. Each etching is hand­printed, usually by a master printer. Etchings are original art, but not one of a kind and unique as a painting.

Etchings with many colors need to pass through the etching press more than once. A tiny hole is put at the top and bottom of the image. These are not damage. They are registration marks, used to align the additional colors properly in the image.

Real blindstamps (embossed seals) on Icart etchings are usually not pressed deeply into the paper and are difficult to see. Fake blindstamps are deeply pressed and therefore easy to read.

Etchings are printed on paper (or rarely on wood). There is no such thing as an etching on glass. There are some modern copies of original Icart etchings that are etched or sand-blasted on glass. They are not antique and only have decorative value with no investment value whatsoever.

A small percentage of Icart etchings were originally lacquered directly onto the image. The images appear somewhat glossy with richer blacks. Texture shows better with lacquer as in the wings of the swan of Leda and the Swan. Over time, the lacquer usually yellows. It can be professionally removed and relacquered with clear colorless lacquer.

Lilies, Orchids, Leda and the Swan, Sweet Mystery and the several Papillon etchings are examples of Icart etchings that are usually found lacquered. They also exist as unlacquered examples.

Totally original Icart etchings have large margins with deckled edges (like the edges of a fancy wedding invitation). It was customary in the ‘20s and ‘30s to trim the margins to fit nicely into frames. Today it is generally accepted that if an etching has 11⁄2” of good margin, it retains its full value. Smaller margins will reduce the value of an etching. Larger margins usually don’t add significantly to the value.

In making an etching, the paper and the inked copper plate are passed through the rollers of the etching press under several thousand pounds of pressure. This transfers the image from the plate to the paper. It also creates a “dent” in the paper around the edges of the plate. Authentic etchings have plate impressions. This is one of the items to be looked for in determining if a picture is really an etching.