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Printmaking in Venice

For many centuries Venice had an important printing and printmaking industry. In the eighteenth century visitors and collectors bought prints of the city (especially if their budgets could not stretch to paintings), and this proliferation of printing activity prompted many artists including Canaletto and his nephew Bernardo Bellotto (1722–80), Marco Ricci and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo to experiment with etching. The technique entails drawing lines into a waxed copper plate which is bitten with acid. The plate is then inked and passed through a press, allowing the printing of many impressions.

Printmakers in Venice also played a key role in a renewal of interest in the technique of chiaroscuro woodcut. This was first developed in Germany and Italy in the early sixteenth century. It entailed the cutting of several woodblocks that were printed from different inks onto the same sheet, creating prints with a range of tones and colours.