‘What is a Print?’ by Gallery Director Tabitha Philpott-Kent

Artists have long supplemented their larger practice by making prints: original works, usually on paper, created in numbered editions and produced in collaboration with some kind of press.

There are many different types of prints, and the process is constantly evolving, but below our Gallery Director Tabitha explores the four most common techniques you will hear about:

Etching

Using an etching needle, an artist scratches an image onto a metal plate covered with wax. This plate is then submerged in acid, which eats into the metal exposed by the scratched lines. The longer the plate is left in the acid, the deeper and darker the line will be. The plate is cleaned, inked, and cleaned again, leaving only the incised lines filled with ink. Dampened paper and a protective cloth are placed over the plate, which is squeezed through an etching press — the pressure forcing the paper into the etched lines to pick up the ink. The image is printed in reverse, and an indentation, known as the ‘plate mark’, is left by the plate’s edges.

Lithography

The artist draws onto stone or a plate (often metal, but other materials can be used) using a grease-based medium — normally special lithographic crayons, or greasy ink known as tusche. The plate is then treated with a chemical solution that ensures the image will attract printing ink, and that blank areas repel ink and attract water. A solvent fixes the image, and the surface is dampened with water. Oil-based ink is then applied to the stone with a roller, adhering only to the image. Finally, the plate is placed on a lithographic press and covered with damp paper and board — a pressure bar ensuring force is evenly applied across the image. The image is printed in reverse, with separate plates used for complex images and multiple colours. This technique allows the artists to freehand draw which makes the final work much more painterly.

Screenprint/ Silkscreen

An image is cut into a sheet of paper or plastic film, creating a stencil. This stencil is then placed in a frame, which has a layer of fine mesh stretched across it, forming a ‘screen’ (initially silk was used, hence one will often see the term Silkscreen). A sheet of paper is placed below the screen, and ink is pushed through the stencil from above, using a rubber blade or squeegee. Only cut-out portions of the stencil print. In addition to stencils, a photographic image can be reproduced on the screen using light-sensitive gelatins. This technique has the effect of layered paint.

Woodcut

An image is sketched on a block of wood before the surface is carved into with gouging tools. The resulting raised portions of the block are then coated in ink using a roller. A sheet of paper is placed on top and pressure is applied, leaving an impression of the block’s raised areas in reverse. Woodcut is the oldest printmaking process

Original Print or Copy?

Original prints are distinct works independent from any other body of the artist’s work, an image that is made and then transferred to paper via ink as many times as the edition requires. Fine art prints result from a close collaboration between the artist and the print studio. Printers — the people who work with the artist to produce an edition — are highly skilled technicians, and are often artists in their own right, they are typically referred to as Master Printers.

As a result they are true works of art, and as important to the artist’s oeuvre as drawings or other works on paper.

An original print is a unique artwork, it is generally produced as a limited number of impressions, known as an edition, and each print is given an edition number, typically written as a fraction — for example, 24/50. The number to the right of the slash indicates the edition size while the figure to the left is the individual print’s number. Numbering the print is often done by the print studio.

An artist may also produce a limited number of artist’s proofs, often marked A/P, that are identical in nature to the standard edition. Here again, fractions may be used to indicate the total number of proofs, and the print number (e.g. A/P 1/4). Other proofs may be made at an earlier stage, as the artist and printer develop an image or test different compositions. These are known as state proofs, trial proofs or colour proofs. These can be unique, with differences in colour combinations, paper types or size.

There are often proofs reserved as a gift for the printer, these are known as Printer’s Proofs and will often have PP written on them.

When the image is perfected, a proof is made and signed B.A.T. (an abbreviation of the French bon à tirer, or ‘ready to print’). The rest of the edition is matched to this image, which is unique and traditionally kept by the printer.

Hors commerce is French for 'before trade.' You may see this on a print as H.C. These proofs are typically reserved for the publisher, but are often released into the market as well.

Are all prints signed? What does it mean if I find a print without an artist’s signature?

The majority of the prints sold are signed — though not all prints are issued with a signature. Warhol and Picasso both stamp-signed some of their prints, and some larger portfolio editions were only signed on the title page. Don’t be alarmed if a print is only initialed. It doesn’t mean that it is worth less — indeed, some artists only initial their prints.

How should I care for my print?

How you frame your print is the most important long-term decision you make when it comes to caring for and keeping the piece. Make sure you go to a reputable framer: it’s worth paying for a print to be properly mounted using the right materials and use UV perspex or glass.

Three key tips: if a print has bright colours, don’t hang it in direct sunlight; ensure a print is kept away from any source of moisture; don’t trim the sheet to try to fit it into a smaller frame.

‘The Artist in their Studio’ by Gallery Manager Costanza

Artists’ studios are the perfect place to see and understand the creative process that makes an artist unique. Studios can be small and tidy places or big messy warehouses, as well as everything in between. When you enter an artist’s studio, you are entering into their most intimate and private world. This is why artist studios are so special and why they are often inaccessible.

One of the most well-known artist studios is The Factory, where Andy Warhol created his artworks.  It was not only a place to create work, but also somewhere to meet the many important people who came to pay court, and a space where he managed the process of creating art and print-making.

Andy Warhol had always been interested in printmaking in order to pursue his goal to ‘industrialise’ art. The process of printing multiple copies of the same image is also art according to Andy Warhol. In The Factory, he explored and refined the screen printing technique creating his most famous masterpieces.

However, an artist’s studio is not necessarily a confined space. It can include different environments, even city streets.  Keith Haring started his art in streets and in underground walkways until the opening of POP SHOP, a shop/gallery in which he could sell his art.

For Haring, printmaking was a fertile ‘middle-ground,’ a natural bridge between his unique works and the reproduction of his imagery on affordable apparel, posters, buttons and other commercial products. Haring experimented with numerous printmaking techniques throughout his career, even as he was investigating diverse media in his unique work, and simultaneously seeking alternative channels for promoting and sustaining the accessibility of his increasingly popular imagery.

Artist’s studios can also be collective spaces. Artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, who had a prolific career with printmaking, were frequent visitors of the Curwen Press Studio in London.  The studio was the focal point of print creators and makers in London in the 20th century. Very quickly, it became the centre of culture and art among all artists in London, with the studio becoming space where artists were given the opportunity of learning about printmaking techniques under the guidance of skilled experts.

Here great artists like Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore had the chance to acquire the skills of printmaking and create the many of their renowned prints.

Click here, or on any of the artist images to see all the available prints in our Mayfair Gallery

Total Eclipse of the Sun 1878

Total Eclipse of the Sun 1878

The solar eclipse on the 21 August 2017 was the first of its kind over the United States of America for almost 100 years and a major astronomic event that sparked world-wide interest. Such events have since the dawn of mankind filled us with awe & wonder, as evidenced by this wonderful large-format lithograph by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot of the total eclipse of the sun from July 29, 1878, that passed across northeastern Asia, Alaska, western Canada, and the United States from Montana through Texas before tracking across Cuba and and ending over southwestern Hispaniola.

This astronomical study of the total eclipse of the sun is one of 15 chromolithographs by Trouvelot that we are currently offering for sale, other celestial subjects including suns spots, solar flares, the aurora borealis, lunar eclipses, comets and representations of planets including Jupiter and Saturn, all carefully observed and depicted by Trouvelot, whose ambition and attention to detail brought these subjects splendidly to life:

During a study of the heavens, which has now been continued for more than fifteen years, I have made a large number of observations pertaining to physical astronomy, together with many original drawings representing the most interesting celestial objects and phenomena ... While my aim in this work has been to combine scrupulous fidelity and accuracy in the details, I have also endeavored to preserve the natural elegance and the delicate outlines peculiar to the objects depicted; but in this, only a little more than a suggestion is possible, since no human skill can reproduce upon paper the majestic beauty and radiance of the celestial objects.

Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, 1882

Étienne Léopold Trouvelot (1827-95) is a somewhat controversial figure, historically... His interest in astronomy was apparently aroused in 1870 when he witnessed several auroras, and he was subsequently appointed to the Harvard Observatory in 1872 after the then director had seen his original pastel illustrations. The complete set of these 15 pastel illustrations was published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1881, and it is the rare, complete set we have for sale here. He returned to France in 1882 and joined the Meudon Observatory where he continued his worked via the medium of photography, but became engaged in a bitter rivalry with his boss, the astronomer Jules Janssen. It was however his amateur interest in entomology that leads many to apparently curse his name, as his enthusiasm for lepidoptera larvae reportedly led him to unintentionally releasing some European Gypsy Moths into the woods behind his house in North America, which led to their spread as an invasive species, to this day causing an estimated $868 million in annual damages... Despite this however Trouvelot has had a crater both on the moon and Mars named after him.

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Celebrating the Book as Art Object at Frieze Masters

Shapero Rare Books is delighted to announce that they will be exhibiting at Frieze Masters in London this October. One of the few dealers selected specializing in rare books and works on paper, a special focus on their stand will be Livre d'artiste by famous names including Matisse, Lichtenstein, Braque, Chagall, Picasso and Warhol, exploring the boundaries of what a book is and can be.

MATISSE, Henri. Jazz. Publication: Tériade, Paris, 1947. The complete book, one of 250 copies, with Matisse’s autograph text lithographed throughout, and 20 stencilled colour plates. £400,000

A masterpiece of book illustration, Jazz is the only publication of which Matisse was both author and illustrator, characterised by brilliant colours, poetic texts and joyful circus and theatre themes. The works represent the great artist’s lifelong unflagging creativity and their presentation at Frieze Masters coincides with a Royal Academy exhibition - Matisse in the Studio -  offering a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal collection, as well as the paintings, sculptures and drawings it inspired.

Limited in his mobility at the age of 74, Matisse could not paint or sculpt. Instead, he cut out forms from coloured papers that he arranged as collages. In 1947, Matisse’s publisher Tériade issued the prints in an artist’s portfolio that included 20 colour prints with handwritten texts by Matisse expressing his thoughts as he created the images. Tériade came up with the title Jazz, which Matisse liked because it suggested a connection between art and musical improvisation.

WARHOL, Andy. A la Recherche du Shoe Perdu. 18 hand-coloured offset lithographs with captions, New York,1955. £200,000 for set

Andy Warhol had a successful career as a commercial illustrator before he was known as an artist.  Between 1955 and 1957, Warhol was the sole illustrator for shoe manufacturer I. Miller and made new drawings of shoes each week for advertisements in the New York Times. À la recherche du shoe perdu celebrates the central role shoes played in his early career and imagination. The captions, with their distinctive cursive lettering, were transcribed by Warhol's mother, Julia Warhola. The lithographs were privately printed in New York and the sheets then hand-coloured using Dr. Martin's aniline watercolor dye by Warhol and his friends at his 'colouring parties. This delightful portfolio is rare as not all surviving portfolios have a complete set of all the plates, and many do not include the larger boot plate.

LICHTENSTEIN, Roy. Allen Ginsberg, La Nouvelle Chute de l'Amerique, Paris, Editions du Solstice, 1992. Complete folio 4/80 ( total of 125 copies). Signed by artist and author. £195,000

In the early 1990s, the publisher Jean-Claude Meyer brought Allen Ginsberg and Roy Lichtenstein together. The result is an extraordinary, unilateral, non-bound book with 11 poems by Allen Ginsberg (in English and French) and 10 plates by Roy Lichtenstein

Translated as The New Fall of America, it is Lichtenstein’s only ‘illustrated’ book, and as such it is an exceptional example of the contemporary livre-de-luxe, bringing together two American artists, each icons of their own times. Bound by Georges Leroux in red and blue calf boards with figurative and architectural designs decorated in coloured glass on rear and front covers, it is marked by the use of exotic materials and strong polychromatic colour.

 

DESNOS, Robert; MIRO, Joan. Pénaltiés de l'Enfer ou Les Nouvelles Hebrides. 1974Limited edition, 51 of 200 copies. Signed by Miro. £17,500

Both the Spanish artist Joan Miró and the French poet Robert Desnos were prominent figures in the Surrealist movement in Paris where they met in 1925 and became good friends.  Miro agreed to provide illustrations for a book by Desnos. However these plans never materialised as they were interrupted by the Spanish Civil War and World War II.  Ironically Desnos survived the war only to die of typhoid a few weeks after the liberation of the camp where he was held in 1945. Nearly thirty years later his widow approached Miro with the idea of illustrating his works again and in the end they agreed to use Pénalités de L’Enfer ou Les Nouvelles-Hébrides (The Penalties of Hell or The New Hebrides).   A wild and creative mix of colours by Miro coupled with Desnos' poetry make this a true Surrealist collaboration.

ERNST, Max. Une Semaine de Bonté ou les Sept Éléments Capitaux. Roman, 1934. Limited edition, 217 of 800 copies. 183 printed monochrome plates. £12,500

Created in just three weeks in Italy in 1934 as Ernst’s native Germany marched to the thump of the Nazi drum, Une Semaine de Bonté is a very bizarre collection of  collages where humanity is mixed with mythology and the animal kingdom. This is the last of Ernst’s rare collage works. Surreal, sometimes amusing, other times creepy or frightening, many of the dramatic scenes display death, distress, bondage, nudity and violence. Une Semaine de Bonté has seven sections for each day of the week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday bound in one part) and each one illustrates one of Ernst’s seven deadly elements, including water and fire.

This particular copy has been bound by the talented Daniel Henri Mercher whose father Henri  was also an innovative binder who invented a method of mounting covers that allowed him to use any type of material which could be sanded, carved or polish. His particular favourite was plexiglass as used in this example. This binding with its weird and wonderful collage design reflects the surreal contents beautifully.

Although artists have illustrated the words of others in books since the advent of the printed book, the book as art object is a product of the 20th century, existing at the intersections of printmaking, poetry, visual arts, graphic design, and publishing.

12 Years a Jockey

The Forgotten History Of African-American Jockeys

Although African-American jockeys may be a rarity now, in the early days of racing in the United States, they were prominent. Slaves in the south grew up on farms, working in stables, and when racing became an organised sport in the early 19th century, plantation owners wouldn’t hesitate to put their slaves on their horses’ backs.

But as was the case with so many other segments of American life, racism pushed black jockeys out of the saddle – literally and figuratively – and by the early part of the 20th century, they had virtually disappeared from America’s biggest racetracks.

From 1792 until 1882, the Washington Race Course, a one-mile loop around today's Hampton Park, featured the finest horse racing in the South. Successful breeders relied on the abilities of their slaves in raising, training, and riding their thoroughbreds. After working as jockeys, a few slaves became respected trainers in their own right.

Fast forward almost 100 years from the beginnings of segregation and there are very few black jockeys. When Marlon St. Julien rode the Derby in 2000, he became the first black man to get a mount since 1921.

NEWDEGATE, C. N.
Sketches From The Washington Races, In October 1840 By An Eye Witness.

£2,950

This unusual plate with lithographed rhymed quatrains beneath depicts a horse race in which two jockeys compete at breakneck speed

First edition. Folio. Three large hand-coloured plates drawn and lithographed

Equestrian Books & Works on Paper

Explore a curated selection of equestrian books and works on paper, in honour of this year’s Royal Meeting at Ascot, “five days of world-class racing, fashion, tradition and fine dining”.  There should be something here for all lovers of equine splendour, even the neigh-sayers…