The graphic print is a very exquisite way of showing the artists’ knowledge of drawing as well as portraying his skill of image composition. The technique of engraving the plate or drawing onto the lithograph stone proves how well the artist can master drawing or even painting in color.
Printmaking may be a painters’ most important skill, since it demands a steady and confident hand, which does not allow for any mistakes. Engraving a copper plate requires a virtuosic hand, since it cannot be erased; a vision of the final graphic print requires the artist to have a clear idea of the composition and the final impression that he wants to portray in the drawn mirror image, since the image is printed from the plate (negative surface) onto graphic paper (positive surface) in reverse.
The first prints, which began to appear around 200-300 AD in China and Japan, were printed on silk. They were mostly used for decoration and for marking expensive clothing, whereas in later centuries, and after the discovery of paper, artists in the Far East began exploring the technique called “woodcut”, while they were still drawing on silk or paper scrolls. These were expensive prints that were sold to the upper classes and they frequently portrayed intimate and sexual motifs. These prints also served as maps, or they portrayed images of certain Japanese landscapes. At the beginning of the 19th century, the artist (called) Hokusai made exquisitely composed woodcuts of some of Japan’s most beautiful landscapes. With this he popularized art to a broader audience. His prints were reproduced in thousands of copies, because the wooden plate could handle this many copies, unlike copper or zinc plates.
A while later Hokusai’s prints became very well known in Europe, especially “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, which greatly influenced some of the artworks of other artists of the time, especially in France.
With the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, artists and creators alike began exploring new opportunities for their creative expression. They experimented by drawing on copper plates and creating prints, which expanded their art to a wider audience.
Great artists such as Albrecht Dürer, a Renaissance painter, and a hundred years later Rembrandt van Rijn, left behind a vast opus of graphic prints, which also made them renowned across Europe as some of the most prominent painters and image composers. Their exquisitely fascinating graphic prints are nowadays still some of the most sought after works of art at art auctions.
Everyone has probably heard of Dürer’s work “Melancholy”, a famous engraving that still stirs the minds of many philosophers and art historians to this day.
“Apocalypse” is another example of his graphic print, which has not lost its popularity, and is still sought after by collectors across the world.
Some of these prints have held on to their glamorous reputation for centuries, on par with today’s Warhol’s series of silkscreens such, as “Marilyn” and “Campbell Soup”
In the 18th century, graphic printing awakened the artists’ interests again, with Francisco Goya creating one of the most powerful opuses of the time. His most significant graphic works, titled “The Disasters of War” and “Los caprichos”, are unique in the history of art in the way they manage to capture and portray the extreme expression of painting.
During Impressionism, the need to print in color developed among artists, and for this purpose they started using the lithograph plate, which allowed for a free use of color. Artists such as Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gauguin left behind an exceptional collection of graphic prints, especially lithographs and woodcuts.
It could almost be said that there wasn’t a single artist in the 20th century who didn’t explore the art of printmaking. This is perhaps due to the need to showcase one’s drawing skill, whilst exploring the vast possibilities of expression all through print. One has to mention the undeniable geniuses of the 20th century printmaking: Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí. Some of their best works, which they left behind in their legacy, were precisely in graphic prints.
In the mid-twentieth century, with the emergence of Pop Art and some of the biggest names in art at the time, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein and of course Andy Warhol, silkscreen became the “queen” among print techniques, which allowed for easy application of color onto large surfaces.
The production of these prints, which usually portrayed very popular motifs, was always very strictly controlled and meticulously numbered. Therefore, it is no wonder that some works, such as Warhol’s original graphic prints “Marilyn” and “Mao” or some of Lichtenstein’s prints, are very hard to find at art auctions today and that the amounts paid for individual prints of the great masters are still staggering.
Visconti Fine Art was established in 1974 in Milan, Italy, and since 1991 it has been operating in Ljubljana as one of the first private art galleries in the region. Visconti Fine Art mostly represents internationally acclaimed artists, though it also boasts a large collection of artists from the former Yugoslavia region, (Vladimir Veličković, Dušan Džamonja, IRWIN Group, Gabrijel Stupica, etc.) which it showcased throughout the years on many international art fairs, such as Art Basel, Art Bologna, FIAC Paris, SAGA Paris and ARCO Madrid. In recent years, the gallery has been focused focusing/focused on organizing various exhibitions across the Balkan region (Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Zoran Mušič, Andy Warhol, etc.).
Živa Škodlar Vujić, art historian and director of Visconti Fine Art Gallery.