Terminology

Avant-garde
French for vanguard. Artists and their work which stand in the forefront of a movement or of new ideas, often in opposition to established ideas and traditions; art that’s ahead of its time, innovative, experimental, heterodox. The modern era has invariably had a flourishing avant-garde, but many have said it is no longer possible in a postmodern era. The bourgeoisie, once alienated by the avant-garde, rarely question any longer the presentation of any avant-garde’s productions by their public institutions.

Bas-relief
A French term meaning “low-raised work.” This art, along with high relief, is known collectively as relief sculpture — meant to be seen primarily from one direction — as opposed to sculpture which is in the round.

Burin
A tool used in engraving or incising metal plates and in carving stone. A knob-like wooden handle which holds a metal shaft having a sharp beveled point with one size of several possible shapes, either flat, round, multiple, or elliptical. Also called a graver.

Burnisher
A tool with a hard smooth rounded surface used for smoothing and polishing, in metal work, ceramics and gilding. Burnishers are typically metal or stone.

Burr
In engraving and drypoint, the ridge of metal plowed up by the burin, or graver, or needle, on the surface of a metal plate. A sharper tool generally produces less burr than a dull one. In a line engraving the burr is removed with a scraper to produce a clean line; in drypoint it is not removed, in order to produce the soft, blurred effect typical of that technique.

“Bon a tirer”
French for “Good to print”. It is generally assigned on a trial proof by the artist to indicate to the professional printer that a satisfactory state of his print has been obtained. It gives the printer the standard to which he must adhere in taking successive impressions

Canceled plate
Defaced plates, stones, etc., to ensure that there is no possibility of being reprinted after the printing of a limited edition of prints has been completed.