by Daryle Lambert
Today it is easy to be suspicious of everything we see. When I attend auctions, often I will over hear a group of dealers discussing items, telling each other which ones are reproductions. The truth is, most of the time they don't have the knowledge to truly know the difference between art prints and print reproductions.
By knowing the differences between originals prints and reproduction prints, you’ll have the upper hand, and this will pay off big time. Spend some time reading about prints, and learning their characteristics. Dealing in Prints is a big business, and if you learn about printmaking itself, you’ll be able to recognize true art prints. This way, you’ll know the real from the reproductions when you see them, and won’t be fooled.
Did you know there are many printmaking methods? Like wood block, mezzotint lithograph, silk screening, & etching woodcut just to name a few. If you learn to recognize the differences in these printmaking methods, you’ll be way ahead of most others. Below I’ve linked up a terrific informative piece about knowing original art prints from print reproductions. This would be a good starting point.
Studying from the Internet and through books is great, but getting up close to original prints is a valuable learning experience that shouldn’t be overlooked. Visit some galleries that deal in original prints and see these for yourself. Or make an arrangement to visit a printmaking studio class in the art department of a university or college.
In the area of Art Prints, I’ve picked up a few secrets of my own along the way. For example, there are just two original sizes of the John J. Audubon Bird Prints. If you know this, half of the battle is over. The two size are: Book Size, 11” by 7” and the Elephant Size, 26 ½” by 39”. These were produced from 1826 to 1854. There was an additional size, the Quadrupeds that measured 28”by 22” produced later.
It’s important to know these measurements, because if you see one in a different size, they’ve either been trimmed, or they were reproduced from the original prints at a later date.
A good way to check if a print is original is to hold it up to the light and see if there is a watermark, which is a mark within the paper itself. The watermark will be the name company who produced the paper and has nothing to do with the artist. This information can help you date the print. Checking for this can be quite trying when the print is in a frame.
I must admit, I’ve been fooled just thinking something was a reproduction when it was actually an original. This happened when I attended Direct Auction in Chicago. I had looked at many of the Audubon prints at this particular auction over the years, and they had all been reproductions. This time, there was a large Audubon print hanging very high on the wall, and I figured this was another reproduction. I got busy talking with people and neglected to inspect it. It sold for $150. My curiosity got the best of me, so when the auctioneer started working another area, I did a good study of the print. The buyer must be very happy because it was genuine all right. It’s wholesale value would be about $5000.
This was the very same auction house where a man I know bought a watercolor by Jessie Willcox Smith for $40 and sold it at an auction house across town a few months later for $22,000. I, like everyone else at the sale, thought it was a print. Don't assume anything. It can be costly.
Another time, I was browsing an antique mart when a woman brought in a Picasso print that had been pencil signed, and I had the chance to look at it. I knew it was real. The proprietor asked me quietly what I thought it was worth. I told him, in my opinion, it should bring over $10,000. Believe it or not he offered the woman $150 and when this offer was declined, he raised his bid to $500. She declined this one as well. I watch as $6000 to $8000 profit walked out of the mart. Yes, I would have gladly paid $2500, but he kept his eye on me to see if I’d followed her, but I didn’t. Since that time, I have had dreams about that piece. You see, it was his mart, and I didn't want to get into a lawsuit.
When you learn about prints, you’ll see why we’ve priced the Picasso Prints in our 31Gallery as we have. These are reproduction prints, pencil signed by the artist. You can take a look at these here.
There are many great books on collectible prints, and it’s a good idea to have some of these. Prints is one area that is most overlooked because there are so many reproductions, and few people spend the time to study it. When you do, you’ll be able to spot an original and cash in on this ability.
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Original vs. Reproduction