Woodcuts are the oldest method of printmaking. They were first developed in China in the 9th Century. European examples date from the 14th Century. It is called a relief process because the lines and surfaces to which the ink adheres are higher than the parts that are not printed.
In the Middle Ages woodcuts were used to print patterns on textiles. Beginning in the 1400's, artists made woodcuts to portray religious subjects, to decorate and illustrate books, and to make playing cards. In the late 1400's and early 1500's the German artist, Albrecht Dürer brought the art of woodcuts to a new level with his expert artistic and technical skills.
During the 1700's and 1800's Japanese artists produced outstanding woodcuts that greatly influenced such European artists as Degas, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Van Gogh. In the 1900's expressionist artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner of Germany and Edvard Munch of Norway created many fine woodcuts.