Research Point: Monoprints by Degas


Research Point: Monoprints by Degas

Take a look at monoprints by Degas. How have these  been achieved? How successful are they? What can you learn from his prints?

I have been collecting a few examples of Degas’ monoprints on Pinterest and have a pin board dedicated to them:

Quite a few of Degas’ monoprints appear to have been made by inking the entire plate and removing ink to indicate the subject matter, whether that is a figure, an object or light. He seems to have used a variety of tools to do this, although many marks are soft as if he has used a cloth or rag. Occasionally, scratch marks can be seen to help denote tone and texture. He quite clearly also uses his fingers to press into the ink and smudge away to soften the image. A lot of the time he worked very tonally and, in the examples I’ve seen, there is minimal line drawing. Some of the images appear to be second or third ghost pressings that he has worked into with pastel, chalks and washes.

I think these have worked beautifully and have great mood and atmosphere. There seems to be an added intimacy compared with his paintings.

I can learn many things from Degas’ prints, not least to be free and expressive. Although, many colours can be used within the monoprinting process itself, the use of tone is still key to producing atmospheric images. Almost anything may be used to make a mark, and those marks can be incredibly subtle or strongly dominant. Even as each print is unique, the inked plate itself can be re-used and modified many times producing different effects yet underpinned by the original. The ghost prints used as under-paintings for pastel work is something I would like to try out, as well as washes and maybe, when I use oil based inks, there maybe an element of resist that can also be explored.

Links to articles in relation to my research:

Degas Monoprint - girl brushing her hair

Degas Monoprint – girl brushing her hair


I really liked this print – it’s low on detail but high on impact. My observations are noted along side with this and the other print I’ve chosen. Both will be added to my sketchbook as a constant reminder of what may be achieved.




Degas Monoprint - The Fireside

Degas Monoprint – The Fireside



This is beautifully depicted and is packed full of atmosphere and mood. Annotated with observations and inserted into my sketchbook.





Book Titles


Books I have read

I have to admit, I find it difficult to get into non fiction books – give me a good psychological thriller and I’ll read it all day, however, I have applied a concerted effort and am starting to win the battle. I will add to this meagre list with more enthusiasm from now on.

101 Things to Learn in Art School by Kit White (MIT Press 2011)
I picked this up in the Royal Academy shop, I think after the David Hockney, The Bigger Picture Exhibition.  This is a brilliant little book, one I can dip in and out of easily, in fact, it’s next to my bed so I can do just that.  This book encouraged me to join the OCA as it made me realise how little I knew and how much I had (and still have) to learn. A few little gems that have stuck in my brain “65 – A painting should be satisfying at a distance of both twelve inches and twelve feet”, “30 – For every hour of making, spend an hour of looking and thinking”, and “46 – Embrace the “happy accident””.  In fact, I am going to re-read it cover to cover as more and more of it is becoming relevant to now!

Drawing Now: Eight Propositions by Laura Hoptman (The Museum of Modern Art 2002)
This is on the essential reading list of Drawing 1, and this added to my block of reading it I think.  However, over the last couple of weeks, I have really got stuck into it.  I have to say the first three chapters were a little dry to me with a few sparks, having said that, once I got to the Drawing Happiness chapter I felt more in tune.  In fact I thoroughly enjoyed it and got really involved from then on.  I found the Mental Map and Metaphysics section peaked my interest regarding the personal voice aspect that we are to try to develop in ourselves.  Looking at self portraiture in a more abstract and personality influenced way helped me see how I could put myself into my work more.


John Singer Sargent – Painting Friends with an Essay by Barbara Dayer Gallati (National Portrait Gallery Publications Copyright 2015)
Admittedly, I bought this book as a cheaper substitute for the catalogue accompanying the John Singer Sargent – Portraits of Artists and Friends exhibition held at the National Portrait Gallery 2015. It is however, still very informative and does have a large number of the paintings displayed in the exhibition reproduced throughout.  The essay written by Barbara Dayer Gallati at the beginning of the book is informative and readable, succinctly describing Sargent’s life, influences, friends and supporters. I get the impression that, although always categorised as American, Sargent was truly multi-national, intelligent, a formidable linguist, well-educated and an opinionated man, not to mention extremely charming when he deemed necessary. I enjoyed the snippets of background that accompanied each reproduction of his paintings and the personalised accounts of his relationship with each portrait subject. One thing though, that really became clear with this book, is that to truly appreciate the skill, life and soul of Sargent’s paintings, they must be viewed in real life.