Defining Harvest, Explaining Print-Making

Although the words “reap,” “thresh,” and “harvest” are often used synonymously today, important distinctions define their use in period literature and among many farmers today. To reap is to cut grain either manually by sickle or scythe, or with a mechanical cutting bar, while threshing, or thrashing, refers to the separation of kernels from heads (spikes) of grain stalks by striking them with a wooden flail, the treading of animals, or being machine-run. Harvesting in former days meant the gathering and storing of unthreshed stalks, but since Early Modern times harvest has also come to mean all of these summertime operations.

B. F. Wetherbee,  The Harvest Moon  (1881), 10 ½ x 27 ½ inches (c. 1900 reprint)

B. F. Wetherbee, The Harvest Moon (1881), 10 ½ x 27 ½ inches (c. 1900 reprint)

In addition to oil and watercolor paintings featured in this series, art prints represent several production techniques. Artists have used intaglio methods by incising an image into a copper plate with an instrument to render a soft etching, or by using a burin to create a sharper engraved print. Intaglio is also used for mezzotint by roughening the plate for a print of greater surface contrast. Woodcuts are made through a relief process in which grooves are carved on a soft wood surface bearing the artist’s design so it remains standing in relief and is inked for the print. Wood engravings are similar but the spaces between the image’s lines are left standing above the surface and the design itself prints in white. Lithography is a planographic process in which the picture is drawn and treated with inks and solutions on a flat stone or metal surface to make multiple black and white or color impressions.