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Abraham Blooteling
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AmsterdamA Dutch engraver and mezzotint artist who created reproductive prints,
A Dutch engraver and mezzotint artist who created reproductive prints, Abraham Blooteling was a leading figure in the development of the mezzotint. Using a tool called a “rocker,” Blooteling was able to roughen the copper plate with fine lines, enabling him to produce the velvety range of tones that characterize beautiful mezzotints. Born in Amsterdam, Blooteling was a pupil of the engraver Cornelis van Dalen the Elder (ca. 1602-1665); some authorities believe he also worked with Cornelis Visscher (ca. 1629-1658). It is not clear how he learned mezzotint. In 1660 Blooteling arrived in Paris and became apprenticed to the Flemish engraver Pierre Louis van Schuppen (1627-1702). He may have had contact with Johannes van Somer (ca. 1645-after 1699), an early mezzotint artist, and did meet the Dutch artist Wallerant Vaillant (1623-1677), from whom he may have learned the mezzotint process. Vaillant had collaborated with the German printmaker Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1619-1682), in making mezzotints. Blooteling returned to Amsterdam in 1665, after van Dalen made Blooteling his heir. Over the next several years Blooteling became a successful reproductive engraver in Amsterdam, and created a variety of portraits, landscapes, and religious, allegorical and genre scenes after various artists. His first dated mezzotint is from 1667. One scholar speculates that Blooteling may have learned more about the mezzotint process while he was in Germany in 1669, making engraved portraits of Baron Theodor Caspar von Fürstenberg (1615-1675, who experimented with mezzotint) and his family. In early 1673 Blooteling went to London at the request of Prince Rupert, and perfected his mezzotint technique. He traveled there with his brother-in-law Gerard Valck (1651/52-1726), who was successively his assistant, pupil and partner. In addition to his development of the rocker to roughen the plate to provide the mezzotint “ground,” his delicate use of the scraper enabled him to create finely-detailed prints where were very popular and much envied by other artists. The subject matter of his mezzotints includes religions, genre and allegorical scenes, but his portraits after works by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) and other artists were particularly admired. He employed assistants to prepare plates with the rocker, and at some point a dealer bribed one of Blooteling’s assistants to obtain the secrets of his process. Soon Blooteling’s technique became widely used in England. He returned to Amsterdam in 1678 for the christening of Valck’s son, but appears to have worked in both London and Amsterdam over the following decade. The Hollstein catalog of his prints lists143 engravings and 138 mezzotints. His 1689 will recites that he lived on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. He died the following year, and was buried in Amsterdam’s Nieuwezijds Kapel (now demolished) on January 20, 1680. (TNB 4/2012) Selected bibliography: Thieme, Ulrich and Felix Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bidenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, vol. IV, pp. 139-140. Leipzig: Wilhelm Engelmann, 1910. Wax, Carol. The Mezzzotint: History and Technique, pp. 25-26. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990. Weustman, Gerdien. “The Mezzotint in Holland: ‘Easily Learned, Neat and Convenient,’” Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Vol 23, no. 1, pp 63-89 (1995).