Beautifully crafted prints are a delight, says ANTHONY SMITH
...is extolling the delights of the crafted fine art print. A Rembrandt for a grand? Yes please!
HAVE YOU ever wanted to own a Rembrandt, a Picasso, a Miro or even a Warhol?
Well, for most of us it may seem a dream, yet it is possible and relatively affordable if we look at original fine art prints.
Fine art print-making is an art, sadly, a much overlooked and/or under-appreciated art form, yet it can be one of the most accessible and rewarding areas of collecting.
The prints, often referred to as limited editions in traditional fine art printing, are limited for practical reasons; the loss of the sharpness or clarity of the image in the process of making each print limits the number of prints that can be made.
The main methods used in traditional fine art print-making are etching, lithography, linocut, woodcut, engraving and screen/ silkscreen printing. The works produced using these methods are also sometimes called original prints to further confuse us all!
The most important factor to remember when looking at any limited edition print is that these works were created by the artist as artworks in their own right.
For those not familiar with the process, the artist would cut or etch into a copper plate to make an etching, carve into a wooden panel to make a woodblock, lino to make a linocut and so on. The work produced would then be inked, wiped to remove excess ink. A sheet of paper would be carefully laid above the worked surface and the two then usually hand-pressed to create the print. The resulting impression of the image on the paper was the print. The first prints were marked as AP, Artist’s Proof, where the artist checked the quality.
The rubbing to remove the ink and to clean the plate after each impression slowly but surely wore away the sharpness of the cuts until finally the image produced was simply not up to a standard acceptable to the artist. The edition would therefore be limited as no more images of consistent quality could be produced, thus giving rise to the term limited edition.
These editions could be as few as five or as many as 300 or more.
Many very famous artists were print-makers, not least of those Rembrandt, who was
better known in his lifetime for his etchings than his paintings.
Yet genuine Rembrandt etchings are still available and surprisingly affordable, starting at around £1,000. Considering that an original painting would be over £1million, £1,000 seems affordable.
Here in Norfolk, the Norfolk Museums Service holds the fourth largest collection of Rembrandt etchings in the UK. We are blessed to have this bequest, made in 1951, from the Turner collection.
Andy Warhol is better known for his silkscreens, Marilyn,
Mao even Mickey Mouse and Campbell’s Soup than probably any artist of the last 100 years.
Chagall, Miro, Picasso all produced limited edition prints that are amazingly affordable, however, ‘afters’, or prints done from the original plates after the artist died, are widely sold, often with bogus signatures, so be warned.
One of the joys when looking at limited editions is the continual voyage of discovery I go on each time I see an etching of superb subtlety and delicacy produced by an artist I have never heard of. These can be so inexpensive, even £15. But what treasures.
So do start to investigate these works of art, even by unknowns. They are gems in their own right. Anthony Smith read art history at the University of Melbourne and has over 35 years’ experience as a gallery owner and art dealer specialising in international art. www.asart.com
Above: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606-1669, the Pancake Woman (II/VII) 1635. Etching on paper. 10.9 x7
Rob Pointen at Mandell’s