You love art, and you know what you like, but you don’t have a financier’s funds. So is it still possible to be an art collector in the world where Picassos, Warhols, Richters and Munchs sell for in excess of $100m?
The answer is “yes”.
Prior to the 15th century every image was unique – a fact hard to imagine. Images were not only one of a kind but generally locked away in palaces and churches available to access only by few.
This changed in the 15th century with the development of efficient printing processes. Inexpensive devotional images and playing cards were being mass produced to fulfil the demand and, more importantly, became within reach of even poor members of society. From the 16th until the 18th century various methods of printmaking and media were explored, and paper became widely available. Those two factors had a decisive impact on the history of art.
Then famous Parisian Fernand Mourlot from Mourlot Studios invited already famous and celebrated artists to explore and experiment with fine art printing in his studio. Chagall, Dufy, Matisse, Miro, Picasso and many others rediscovered an unexplored art of lithography to create small editions of original artworks for exhibition and sale. Ever since then the demand for lithography boomed.
Today most of us could not afford to own an original piece of Picasso or Van Gogh but we can still have a copy of their masterworks on our wall. This is where an idea of a print comes into play.
To give a very simple example an original painting of Liz 5 by Warhol sold at auction for $25 million while an original lithograph signed by the artist can be obtained for a modest $70,000.
Printmaking – to put it simply – is making art by printing, normally on paper. Images are being prepared by the artist or a skilled craftsman on a medium, covered in ink and transferred from a matrix or through a screen onto paper, making what in technical terms in known as ‘impression’.
The medium used can be a metal plate for an engraving or etching; a stone for lithography; blocks of wood for woodcuts and linoleum for linocuts. The screens are made of silk or other fabrics.
The process of making a print retains element of originality rather than just being a photographic reproduction of an image. Even though multiples of the same image are being produced they are not considered a copy but an original.
Lithographs (prints) are therefore an authorised copy of an original workproduced for various purposes: they are an alternate form of an artistic expression for the unique qualities a printmaking process lends itself to; means of promotion of the original painting, idea or exhibition or simply copies of an affordable art that you hang on your wall.
The process of creating a lithograph can be just as time-consuming and complex as an original painting which is why the print runs are usually kept low to preserve value. These days there are of course simpler way of reproducing original artwork for the commercial market so never assume that a Dali you are buying from an art store is indeed a lithograph.
A signature on a lithograph is a quite recent development. The practice is generally attributed to Whistler’s brother-in-low, Sir Francis Seymour Haden whose apparent great innovation was to charge extra for a signature (20% uplift in price for a signed lithograph).
The idea did not become popular immediately but in 20th century
it became quite common among some artists, namely Chagall, to
publish both signed and unsigned editions which were being
distributed at different prices. Those who could afford it would
buy a signed impression; those could not, would still be able to
have a print. Unfortunately, the
desire for signed impressions is always higherand
in some cases (Chagall) attracts forgers who are quick to take an
unsigned print and add a signature.
This is where we come into play and tell a fake from an original.
In the past few years, several major museum and gallery shows have explored the prints of masters ranging from Matisse and Picasso to Warhol and Anish Kapoor. The exhibits were quite a revelation and increased the awareness among the public that printmaking is an integral part of artist’s development and the prints are finished works of art in their own right.
As a result of such artworks being more frequently displayed the general demand for prints has risen among buyers as new collectors considered them an attractive entry point for their collection and already established art buyers looked to diversify their collections.
In mid-July 2010, on the eve of the National Gallery of Art's show of master prints by Edvard Munch Bonham’s offered a rare hand-colored impression of one of the earliest states of the artist's famous Madonna (1895). The price soared to £1.25 million, twice its lower estimate and was second only to the $2.1 million auction record achieved in late 2007 when Vampire II, a color lithograph, sold at Grev Wedels Plass in Oslo.
A good thing about the modern and contemporary prints is that the prices can fluctuate according the edition numbers, period and technique. The prices for Picasso prints can start as low as £2,000 and range up to £1.2 million to £1.4 million. (An unsigned La Minotauromachiea by Picasso sold in 2010 for £1.27 million, 3 times its lower estimate of £400,000.)
In essence, when the soaring art prices mean that maybe you cannot afford 10 paintings by your favourite artists you should be able to afford 10 prints. The general demand on the print market is high while prices remain reasonably modest. You need not bid against few wealthy art collectors to have your own art collection.
Danseuse au miroir(1927) Signed ‘Matisse’ (48/50)
Although known primarily as a painter Matisse was a skilled
draughtsman, sculptor and printmaker. He was involved with
printmaking for more than fifty years and from 1900 until his death
in 1954 he completed more than eight hundred intaglios,
lithographs, woodcuts, linocuts and monotypes. Printmaking for
Matisse was a personal process, an extension of drawing, and a
means of unwinding after long and intense periods of painting. As
such, there were several distinct times during which Matisse was
particularly active in the medium: 1906, 1914, and during the
1920s. In 1929 alone he made more than one hundred etchings and
The nature of Matisse’s prints remains as intimate as his paintings. He did not rely on master printers and their workshops. Instead he installed an etching press in his studio which allowed him to print when and as he liked.
The intimacy of his prints is also evocative in his subjects: family and close friends, fellow artists, female nudes and – subject he was always enthralled by – dance and dancers.
Plate 8 from the 'Heraclitus of Ephesus' suite of 9 etchings(1965)
Joan Miró’s print production became increasingly
important to him over the years. When he became older it became
more difficult for him to travel to Barcelona or Paris to work on
his prints. Therefore, fulfilling one of his dreams, he decided to
set up his own studio.
One of the major projects of Miro was to print a series of dedicated to the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, a figure he greatly admired. He worked on it over the years and finally completed it in 1979. The original designs and proofs are now preserved at the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró a Mallorca.
In 1944 Bacon created a triptych entitled 'Three Studies for
Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion' which launched the previously
unknown painter into the art world. The title refers to a triptych
which would usually be found at the foot of the cross within a
church and would traditionally depict saints, however, Bacon's
horrifying anthromorph creatures bear only the slightest
resemblance to his inspiration. In 1988, Bacon reworked his most
famous piece to create 'Second Version of the Triptych 1944'.
We have a single signed limited edition lithograph printed in colours from the 'Second Version of the Triptych 1944' (1988) on Arches paper with full margins. Signed "Francis Bacon" and inscribed "EA" [Éupreuve d'Artiste], aside from the edition of 60. Printed by Edites par Librairie Seguier, Paris, published by the Pompidou, Paris in 1989. The triptych features in Alexandre Tacou's catalogue raisonnné of Bacon's work (25). Print measures 752x560mm and has been mounted and framed.
A brilliant draughtsman and an outstanding graphic artist, David Hockney always loved Grimm's Fairy Tales and had read all of them. He also admired earlier illustrations to them by Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac. Illustrating the tales was one of his most ambitious printmaking projects and enabled the artist to give full reign to his imagination. He illustrated only six titles: The Little Sea Hare, Fundevogel, Rapunzel, The Boy who left Home to learn Fear, Old Rink Rank, and Rumpelstiltzhen.In all he made over 80 etchings from which 39 were published by Petersburg Press in both book and loose-leaf portfolio editions.
'Seven Sculpture Ideas (1980/81) Signed "Moore" and inscribed 'HC 1/7' aside from the edition of 50 (No.4 currently in the Tate Modern collection)
Henry Moore is generally acknowledged as one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century and from the late 1940s has been recognised as the most celebrated British artist of his time. Moore started printmaking in 1931 and continued to make prints until the end of his life. They closely relate to the development of his work and show the subject he was preoccupied with (Mother and Child, reclining figures).
'La Victime de la Fete' from Les Chevaux DaliniensSigned and numbered 190/250
A blend of reality and fantasy characterized both his personal and artistic life. Dali was a prolific printmaker with an output of at least 1700 prints during an artistic career. He “enriched” the traditional techniques Dali by adding sometimes his own idiosyncratic but innovative and spontaneous graphic experiments. For example, on some occasions he would attack the plates with an axe or bombarded them with eggs containing lithographic ink! Some of his drypoints were produced with his 'dessin automatique' (automatic drawing) technique where the artist believed his hand movements were controlled by his subconscious mind. The result was always highly original and often fantastic and colourful.
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Warhol is considered the figurehead of the Pop Art movement in the United States. Pop Art is renowned for using images from consumer culture with black humour, irony and criticism. Warhol's "Mao" (1973) series used silkscreened portraits of the Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong (1893-1976) to draw similarities between Western consumer idolatry and Communist propaganda. We have a "Mao" screenprint printed in colours, 1972, from the portfolio of ten, on Beckett high White paper. Signed in ball point pen and numbered from the edition of 250 on the verso. Printed by Styria Studio, New York, published by Castelli Graphics and Multiples Inc., New York. Measures 914x914mm and has been mounted and framed. On a par with both Warhol's "Marilyn" and "Elizabeth Taylor" series, "Mao" is a truly iconic piece from the 20th century.
We appreciate that starting an art collection can be intimidating for a number of reasons so we encourage you to call us and speak to our staff members about any questions you may have about any of the pieces we have listed in this newsletter.
To make this affordable art even more affordable you can take an advantage of our interest-free split payment options. To enquire please call +44 (0)20 7557 4404.
Happy art collecting!