Sunday, 19 September 2010

Some simple thoughts on Intarsio and Whiteline printing.

I think a line can be drawn from the classic art of Intarsio (wood-inlay) to woodblock printing, wood/ linoleum-engraving and white-line printing.

As early as the 16 century pictures and decorations were made using different types of (precious) wood instead of paint. There are astonishing examples of this art form. Even to this day there are artists excelling in this time-consuming classic art form. Paintings in wood and exotic decorating of furniture.

The painting in wood has seen a recreational revival in 1920-50’s. The pre-television and internet era. Around the same time linoleum-cutting and printing was a primary-school learned and in later life applied art. Passing the time in the evenings. With the radio on. When family life was more social, the world much more slower, conveniently arranged and understandable.

From the army of small amateurs some talented and sometimes further educated votaries were to become great artist in these media.

As an addicted flea- markets visitor I have seen many of these wood-panels (painted engravings) Mostly not very appealing, often woodworm eaten. But occasionally real nice pieces show up. I think prefab designs could have been bought, although I have never actually seen one. Nor two alike.

I particularly like these sunflowers in a ginger-jar which I believe to be from the 1930’s. The 1940’s sailing boats were engraved (burned) with a hot needle or old screwdriver.

Some engravings could have been used as a Whiteline block. For printing. But the makers, at that time oblivious to this relatively new American invention of multiplying art, usually just colored in the pictures' puzzle pieces. Hammering a nail in the wall and decorating their homes with the fruits of his or hers arduous labour.

You have to really close-examine a panel to see if it is inlayed or painted because of layers of dust and discoloring by the sun. A device called a saw-donkey or “cheval de marqueterie” was in use by professional marqueteers but I am convinced our grandparents using nothing but a fret-saw and simple table-clamp. Contemporary French marqueteer Yannick Chastang is the maker of the three roses (left). A real painting in wood.

And then, Googling, I recently found these lino-cuttings (linoleum engravings would be a more appropriate description) used as a whiteline printing from contemporary Hamburg artist and painter Ingrid Lill (1942- )
Visit her at:

They remind me of the wonderfull women of French sculptor Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)

I have no idea if this Folk Art is typically Dutch or may have been also popular in other (European) countries.

Amazingly my humble blog drew almost 800 visits in the last 3 weeks. So if some passer-by has any further knowledge on these simple wooden pictures don’t hesitate to leave a comment.


  1. Well, you know, Gerrie, your enthusiasms are very appealing and I agree with you about wood-inlay being part of the general craft ethos of the time and I'm a sucker for all that kind of thing but honestly you have to draw the line somewhere. Flower embroidery on linen (traycloths, tea cosies, table cloths, cushion covers - the list is endless) was a popular activity for British ladies in the thirties but would you post them on your blog? I have no doubt their husbands were busily doing intarsis in the garden shed while the womenfolk were sewing shamrocks onto napkins. It's desperately suburban. I think the general rule is this 'If they didn't go to art school to learn how, don't bother.'

    Haji B

  2. Great ! I thank you Haji B as a respected and returning quest, for taking the time reading AND commenting on my Blog. I always am gratefull of ANYONE commenting. In perticular when educated and cultivated, honest and straight forward, ironic and humorous. And made me to think. And laugh.
    Since I am the writer, editor and owner all in one person of this great magazine you'll just have to cope with my choice of topics, viewpoints and doubts. Sorry and: Boy oh boy do I love it !
    Please, please keep teasing and inspiring me.