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Luis Quintanilla Glossary Guide This glossary of terms is intended to provide a very basic guide to the vocabulary used in discussions of fine original prints. It is not intended to be complete or comprehensive, but rather a primer for those who may need assistance with the terminology used on this website.
All the terms in the glossary appear in alphabetical order in the right hand column, with the exception of Original Print, which is discussed in this column below. To go to a particular entry in the glossary either scroll down until you see the entry you are seeking, or use the pop-up index immediately below.
The glossary will continue to be developed over time. For further reference now, click here to view a brief bibliography of other publications discussing printmaking terminology, both on-line and in print. Terms appearing in italics within an individual glossary entry have their own entries in the glossary.
A brief dissertation on the term "Original Print" The concept of an original print sometimes called an artist-print is inherently difficult to explain and understand for several reasons: First the term "original print" appears to be a contradiction in terms.
After all, an original artwork is most often construed to be a single item, with no other work exactly or even almost exactly like it in existence; whereas a print is commonly thought of as being merely a reproduction of an original.
In fact most of us have never seen the most famous original oil paintings, drawings, watercolors, etc. We have only seen reproductions of them, typically photo-mechanical reproductions -- which are indeed prints when the image is printed; and therein lies a big part of the difficulty -- understanding the difference between a photo-mechanical reproductive print and an original print.
Another part of the problem is understanding how there can be more than one original of the same image, which, with the exception of monoprints or monotypes, is the case with original prints.
And a final difficulty emerges in trying to define what degree of involvement is required of the artist in the process of producing a print to make it qualify as an original print.
The first step is to understand that the difference between an original print and prints that are not original lies, to a great extent, in the method by which the image to be printed is created.
An image first created in a medium other than a printmaking medium such as pen-and-ink drawing, oil painting, watercolor, etc, and is then photographed so that it can be printed in multiple copies whether the number be two, two hundred or two thousand-- or more is not an original print.
These prints are reproductions intended to look as much like the original as possible, and even if each of them is signed and numbered by the artist who created the original drawing or painting, it is still not an original print.
It is a different animal and should not be promoted by either artist or publisher as an original print. The original the painting,drawing, etc. On the other hand, an image created by the hand of the artist on an original printmaking matrix ,such as an etching plate, a lithographic stone, a woodblock, etc.
It needs to be emphasized that the printing surface is not the artwork itself but merely a vehicle for transferring it, a part of a process. So there is no single "original" of which the prints are copies.
In fact, the word "copy" is best avoided as a term to describe an original print because it suggests that the print is a photo-mehanical reproduction of some original not an original in itself. Instead, the word "impression" should be used to describe the work that constitutes an original print, because the image has been pressed onto the paper or other support by pressure from a press onto an inked etching plate, lithogrpahic stone, woodblock, etc.
When the printing process is complete and the plate, stone, block or other printing surface destroyed or cancelled all that remains are the printed sheets -- the impressions -- most commonly limited to a fixed number, and which, taken together, comprise an edition of original prints -- a set of multiple originals.
It should be added that part of the artist-printmaker's motive in making an original print is not merely the hoped for economic benefit of having more than one work to sell for his or her effort, but the incorporation of the unique qualities of the chosen printmaking medium into the work of art.
Part of every original print fancier's pleasure comes from appreciating the special qualities of the various printmaking media and a particular artist's and perhaps his or her printer's ability to enrich a print through their exploitation.
It is also the habit of most collectors of original prints to seek out the best impression available, suggesting that within that edition of there are differences from one impression to another thus adding another aspect of uniqueness to each and every impression of an original print.
Unfortunately, for the sake of simplicity, the above is not the last word on what makes a print an original print. The question arises as to whether the image presented in an original print must be original to the creative imagination of the person or persons who produced the image on the plate, stone, block, etc.
For much of the history of printmaking, most prints made were produced by very skilled individuals who copied the image of another artist onto a matrix, most commonly engraved it onto a copper plate, from which the impressions were printed.
The individuals who did the copying may be thought of as artists themselves, possessing a wide range of artistic skills; or perhaps only as artisans or craftsmen, because no matter how fine their handwork, the involvement of the creative imagination in the work belonged to another.
In either case, the publishers of these prints thought it appropriate to specify on the print itself who did what. The artist who conceived of and executed the original image in a medium such as oil painting, drawing, etc.
The conclusion to be drawn, however, for the purpose of deciding what is and what isn't an original print, is that an original print must not only involve the involvement of the artist in the creation of the image that is used to create the prints from a printing surface, but the image on the print has to have been invented or originally created by the same individual.
Or at least usually this is the case, because nothing is simple in the world of printmaking. Prints which are to one extent or another copies of the work of an artist in another medium are often termed "Afters," meaning they are created after an original that existed before.
Generally afters are not considered to be original prints. However, grey areas exist. For example, as Professor Joby Patterson points out, when Marcantonio Raimondi copied Durer's Life of the Virgin woodblock book and some of his engravings in engravings of his own, and later when Raimondi made "a business deal with Raphael to copy his paintings in engraving for distribution around Europe," these Raimondi prints after Raphael, although being reproductive in nature, are inevitably imbued with such originality through the distinctive handwork of Raimondi that although still afters, are often classified as original prints.
The point is, apparently, that when an artist copies the work of another but imbues that copy with a qualtiy of uniqueness that can be attributed to and recognized as the art of the copier, then the print becomes a candidate for origianal print status.
Another example of an after that qualifies as an original print is a print made not simply reproduced by photomechanical means by an artist after one of his or her own images in another medium. For example, most of Ernest Fiene's original prints show a close correspondence to oil paintings of his.
Sometimes the image was present in the print first, but more often than not it appeared first in the painting. The lithographs that followed, however, were drawn by Fiene on the stone.Why Graduate Studies at Texas State University?
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