The Quickest Way To Cut The Art Fog – Is It A Print Or Reproduction?

Anything that looks exactly like the original painting is a reproduction. (We are not talking here of copies made by art students, learning the techniques of the Masters, nor of forgeries made for illegal gain.)

Recently, a popular business has been developed in which images of art by famous painters are printed onto paper or canvas and then over-painted by a technician. Depending upon the skill of the technician, this can result in a convincing facsimile of an ‘Old Masters’ original, called a reproduction. The practice is not illegal, since the makers do clearly state the nature of their product. But I leave it to you to decide whether you consider it ethical. For this reason, most people today call anything else a print.

Art prints are made by photo-mechanical – or recently, by digital – processes. Usually, they are made on paper but sometimes produced on fabrics such as canvas or silk. Their editions,the total number produced, are relatively large, and their prices are comparatively small. They come in these types:Open(aka Poster Prints), Giclées, Limited Editions.

Open Editions are so named for the fact they can be produced in any quantity and are priced cheaply. Giclées (pronounced as zhee-clays) are produced as required by order and are often made on canvas to resemble oil paintings. They can be pretty pricey, as their production costs are somewhat higher. Limited Editions are available in a number decided by the artist or publisher, after which their printing plates should be destroyed. Proof of this may be documented by some artists, such as myself, but in many countries, including Australia, it is not yet a requirement. Regulation is still erratic but some rules are constant.

1. The artist signs each print (usually in the lower right corner)

2. The artist numbers each print, above the number of the total edition

3. The title of an original artwork may be included (usually in the centre)

Is print-collecting a good investment? Any collectible you buy becomes an investment only when you re-sell it. If you sell at a profit, it was a wise investment.Everyone knows cars and jewellery depreciate in value the moment you leave the showroom with your purchase. Art will generally increase in value by about 10 percent a year or higher if the artist’s profile has been raised by publication in books, or with the release of fine art prints.

Quality of manufacture is vital for the long-term survival of art prints. The acid in cheaper wood-pulp papers will cause unsightly orange spots called ‘foxing’ or even burn the image. Works on paper have a much longer rate of survival when they are produced on archival (acid-free) papers. The specialist art printers who make my Limited Editions won a national award – the Silver Medal – for Excellence in Print for reproducing my oil painting Snowy Mountains Man.

Because the fine art print is deemed a ‘multiple original artwork’, many people build their whole collection on Limited Editions. When an edition is sold out, collectors looking for that missing piece in a series can raise the price on what is called the ‘secondary Market’ to many times the original price. It is just the same game as played by collectors of stamps or any other collectible. So, as always, it is best to buy early. Although in reality the last print in a run is as perfect as the first, and has cost the same to make, low numbers attract a premium. So does a set of same-numbered prints in a series. If you ever decide to re-sell, you will make a nice extra profit.

Here are some precautions you can take to protect your print and keep it looking good for a lifetime. Never hang your print where it will be exposed to strong, constant, sunlight. Or to the intense light from halogen spots such as are often used in showrooms or offices. Some printers colours are ‘fugitive’ or unstable under these conditions. A print properly framed under glass will last a lifetime in the normal environment of your home.

Insist that your framer use a mat of pure rag board, deep enough to keep the print separated from the glass. It will protect the print if temperature changes cause condensation to build up, encouraging the development of fungi on the underside of the glass. A very good preventive measure in damp climates is to attach small corks, or those plastic ‘bumpers’ used on kitchen cupboard doors, to each corner of the back. This keeps the frame away from the wall and allows a proper circulation of air.

I hope I have whetted your interest in print-collecting. You can create your own world of art, right in your home. Prints look best when you hang them in groups, selected by artist, subject, style or basic colour. A mix of sizes will look great if you stick to a plan; a series of images by the one artist makes this easy and effective.

You already know why the Mona Lisa is the most famous painting. And you will enjoy the print you have chosen to hang in your home, knowing you have helped to improve the standing of the artist who created it.

©Dorothy Gauvin