April 2010

What are Multiples?

It is when an artist creates work using various printmaking techniques to create multiple original works of art. In addition to the fine art print, multiples have been used throughout history to create stamps, posters, book illustrations, cards, and maps. If created before World War II, the images are considered to be antique multiples.

Fine art prints and hand pulled prints are multiples created from a single original surface or matrix. This can be wood, metal or linoleum plates, limestones, and plastic or fabric sheets. The matrix determines the technique to be used: relief , intaglio, planographic or stencil. The area to be printed is created by carving, etching, drawing with sensitized mediums or cutting.

The image can be one or many impressions to create a single print that is signed and numbered in an edition of a limited number in fine art prints. The edition will be all the same size and as consistently the same as possible. The first set of prints pulled for the artist's own use, are marked as A.P., artist’s proof, and may or may not be numbered and are considered by many to be higher in value than the subsequent numbered edition prints.

Sometimes marked E.A. (French) or PA (Italian & Spanish) instead of A.P. Bon a tirer (French, good to pull) is a press proof of a print that is approved by the artist and serves as the standard for the edition. Painters and sculptures sometimes create the image for multiples but do not pull the edition themselves. They work with the master printmaker in his studio or press to create the edition.

An edition number on a fine art print looks like a fraction. Usually it is penciled in the lower left-hand corner below the bottom of the image, balanced by the artist's signature in the lower right. The matrix used to print the editions begins to deteriorate as the edition is created. Prints made at the beginning will be clearer, sharper and of better overall quality than prints made near the end of the print run. Printmakers developed the system of numbering each print that was made, in the sequence in which it was made. If a print is numbered 5/100, you know that it is the fifth print pulled in an edition of 100 total prints, minus the artist’s proofs.

A restrike is a print produced from the matrix of an original print that was not printed as part of the original publishing venture. A restrike is a later impression from an unrelated publishing project, sometimes after the artist’s death.

A watermark is a design embossed into a piece of paper during its production and used for identification of the paper and papermaker. The watermark can be seen when the paper is held up to light. A blind stamp is an embossed seal impressed onto a print as a distinguishing mark by the artist, the publisher, an institution, or a collector. When an artist has created many multiple editions they are listed in a Catalogue Raisonné. It also includes all essential documentary information.

Artists, galleries and museums use the term “multiples” to differentiate from the word “print” which includes commercial offset and digital reproduction techniques. Hand pulled prints and fine art prints are acceptable terms as well. There is a place for digital prints to be considered fine art prints and that will be addressed in a future article.

Suzanne Snider, April 2010

The Manicure, 1923
drypoint engraving by Mary Cassett

Available for purchase - $1600
Please Contact Suzanne Snider

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