Graphic Prints & Original Editions

Focal point in hall 1 - Graphic Prints & Original Editions
Focal point in hall 1 - Graphic Prints & Original Editions

A lifetime of art collecting often begins with the purchase of a graphic print – because thanks to their “serial” character, such prints are often affordably priced and accordingly attractive for neophyte collectors. The medium of graphic prints has truly earned the attention that is lavished upon it in Hall 1. At one time or another, nearly every artist has experimented with aquatint, lithography, silkscreen printing or woodcut.

Edition art at art KARLSRUHE

Edition art at art KARLSRUHE e.g. Dreipunkt Edition
Edition art at art KARLSRUHE e.g. Dreipunkt Edition

The term edition, actually used for the publishing activity of printing works, is also used in the reproduction of works of art. The result is so-called "Editionskunst" or edition art; So works that exist in more than one edition. These include photos and prints.

A Strong Presence for Graphic Prints at art KARLSRUHE

A Strong Presence for Graphic Prints at art KARLSRUHE
A Strong Presence for Graphic Prints at art KARLSRUHE

Many of the great art collectors, who presently enjoy international renown, began their collecting with graphics or other artworks in original editions. Affordably priced folios and multiples offer an opportunity to become more familiar with Classical Modern art and Contemporary art in the quiet surroundings of one’s own four walls. And more than one etching or silkscreen print, which may have been purchased with pocket money from young artist friends, sold for top prices years later.

The presentation of graphic prints at art KARLSRUHE documents the diversity of this medium with a display on circa 200 square meters of floor space featuring artworks that are provided by the exhibitors, available for purchase, and produced in small or very small series. The exhibit simultaneously presents a broad art-historical spectrum.

Portrait Frank-Thomas Gaulin from Kunsthaus Lübeck is a former member of art KARLSRUHE’s Advisory Board and a source of important impulses for the show of graphic prints

Especially graphics, in all their facets of letterpress, planographic and gravure printing, have fascinated artists and thus also collectors of all age groups for many centuries. Graphic prints pave the way for building up a valuable collection – and viewing them can help people learn to appreciate art.


Frank-Thomas Gaulin from Kunsthaus Lübeck is a former member of art KARLSRUHE’s Advisory Board and a source of important impulses for the show of graphic prints

Glossary for Graphic Prints

The collective designation “graphic prints” denotes all artistic techniques which reproduce a master pattern. A print template or print form is created from the mirror-image of the motif. The process may involve engraving: the forms which are not to be printed must be cut away from the solid surface of the print substrate. If a colouring agent (e.g. ink) is applied to the printing plate and the plate is then pressed against a sheet of paper, the graphic artwork per se becomes visible on the paper. Last but not least: if the print form is not steeled, it becomes increasingly more reduced as the number of printed copies increases. This is why artists, gallerists and collectors prefer smaller editions of graphic artworks, which should, of course, also be signed, numbered and dated.

In relief printing, the elements of the image lie above the plane of the printing plate. The raised elements are inked, plate is pressed against a sheet of paper, and the print is transferred to the paper. The woodcut is the classical and oldest method: a woodcutter uses gravers and knives to cut from the wooden print plate whatever parts of the image which should not be printed. This negative technique, however, does not allow the graphic artist to correct imperfect cuts. This technique, which already played a role as a technique for creating illustrations in book printing in the early modern era, was enthusiastically revived in the 20th century by the Expressionists, who loved the woodcut because it was ideal for creating a coarse, angular, visual vocabulary.

The German word Tiefdruck (literally “deep print”) captures the essence of this technique. The elements of the image are scratched into the plate and therefore lie below the plane of its surface. Gravure printing is a positive method: the colouring agent is first rubbed onto the plate and into the incised depressions; the plate is wiped clean, leaving the colouring agent in the grooves; and finally the plate is pressed against the paper. Etching, which has been used since the 15th century, permits more virtuosic handling than relief printing because the artisan cause allow the tips of the burins “dance” across the metal plate, thus creating the engraving. One problem with this method is that the edges of the incised lines are delicate and suffer a loss of quality after 20 or 30 copies have been printed. Alongside dry point, which became famous thanks to Albrecht Dürer, there are also warm point and mordant etching. In the latter method, the image is cut into a soft stratum and the plate is then immersed in acid. Halftone prints can be created by repeatedly immersing the plate in the caustic bath. Aquatint, a variety of etching with an especially painterly effect, was preferred by artists such as Francisco de Goya and Pablo Picasso.

In this printing technique, two opposites (i.e. the elements which are to be printed and those which are not to be printed) share the same plane. A greasy chalk is applied to the fine-pored surface of a stone (often limestone) plate. The lithographer then applies a solution which enhances both the grease-receptive and grease-repellent chemical properties of the two components of the pattern. Many artists regard lithography as a rather complicated method and accordingly prefer to commission specially trained lithographers. The art of lithography, which was first used in the 20th century, served many poster artists (e.g. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) as an ideal method for reproducing monochrome and also polychrome motifs.

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