Reading the Fine Print | What is an Original Print?
With a lineage stretching back to 105 AD, printmaking stands as one of the oldest practices in art. Part of this longevity lies with its diverseness. As technology evolves, so does printmaking - with every generation of artists forging new ways to express their visions. And collectors rejoice, recognising prints as among the most fruitful and thrilling avenues for collecting fine art.
What is an original print?
Printmaking as an original form of art can be a largely misunderstood medium. In printmaking there is no pre - existing original, rather the final prints are the manifestation of the design and are the originals themselves. The term ‘original’ can be misunderstood as one-of-a-kind. In the case of printmaking however, repetition is core. Artists almost always use a plate or matrix to produce multiple impressions called an edition. Each work in the edition is the same, although on occasion, through the quirkiness of the press or the artist, each may have fractional differences. Because of this, an original print constitutes each print taken from the original plate or matrix.
What’s the difference between original versus reproduction prints?
The difference between an original print and a reproduction print, lies with artistic intention. If an artist intends to create an etching, then regardless of how many times this etching is printed, each print constitutes an original work of art. However, if that work was initially created to be a painting and then later the work of art is photographed to make prints, these subsequent versions are a reproduction of the original.
One print, many names
The term print encompasses a glossary of techniques. From etching, through to woodblock printing and back to pigment prints - part of appeal of printmaking lies in its delicious multiplicity. And in the digital age, there are even more ways to create prints. Across this wide range, the definition of an original print may still apply. No matter the technique, a print is original if it derives from an original plate, design or render that was intended to produce prints.