What do you Buy when you Buy Art?
With consumerisation, we buy branded clothes from malls which look exactly the same everywhere. So we probably have a shirt that an African and American would be wearing the same time as we are. We buy products which are exact copies of each other, which have got certain ‘social status’ and again could be the same in all homes. So in a globalised world, we live in identical homes, with similar looking furniture, wearing exactly the same clothes! And yet when it comes to art, and we hear the word ‘Print’, we suddenly shrink its value in our minds. If we are so alright with copies of clothes, furnishings, objects, what is the inhibition about the ‘print’?


  A little Fart When the reason sleeps it produces monsters

Francisco Goya (1746-1828), Lithographs

The inhibition is mostly in the misunderstanding of what a ‘Print’ in print making is in the first place. Print Making, many a times referred to as Graphics, is not a machine generated print of the photograph of an artwork. It is a work of art in itself. Print making is one of the mediums to create your painting, and a highly technical one too!  A Print is an impression of the artist’s drawing done on metal, stone, wood, leather or other surface, taken with ink on paper, silk/cloth or any other material. It is taken manually, by pressing the plates/surfaces using a pressure machine and with numerous processes, gives fantastic results! Being an impression, it has multiple copies, which all are original works of art, for it is not possible that any other person could take the plate and achieve the same impression of it. There of course are some printmakers who take unique prints, so there is but one only impression of their work.




Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906), Oleographs

 Printmaking could be said as one of the oldest art forms, with stone men taking impressions of their hands in prehistoric caves. With invention of paper in China, the technique of taking impressions on paper developed greatly and we can see that the art of Printmaking reaching its zenith in the Far East. Print Making was used profusely to reach out to people before the mechanical printing technique came to be used, but it was extensively used by artists to reach out with their artworks. Artist Francisco de Goya from Spain made use of lithographs to send his message of enlightenment and human condition during Napoleonic wars in Europe.  A very good example of Printmaking reaching out to people in India is Raja Ravi Varma’s Oleographs of popular paintings of gods, goddesses and mythical characters. Very popular prints that we know of are the posters by Impressionist Toulouse Lautrec done for Moulin Rouge, the popular cabaret place in Paris, and of course the abode of young artists meet!   

We have so many famous artists who made prints of their own works, called serigraphs (a rendition of an original artwork created by the silk-screen printing process), and are as valuable as the painting!


Poster for Moulin Rouge, Paris, Lithographs, Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901)

Printmaking is done in many tedious processes like etching, woodcut, lithography, viscosity, linocut, collography to name a few, which have to mastered and innovated by the artist in his/her own way. Printmaking requires not only precision in drawing and rendering on the plate but equal amount of efficiency in the process of taking the print on the paper/cloth. It is an enduring process that the artist goes through to achieve specific fabulous visual textures and results that may not be achieved in a painting. With the sheer amount of time put in and hours of toiling, the artists come up with range of prints, a/p an artist print and then his desired number of copies. There are of course artists who prefer to have unique print i.e. a single print of their plate. With a print in your home, what is bring is a symbol of modernity, of the amalgamation of human creativity with that of the machine. With a print you buy the hours of repetition and rendering done over the unique plate, almost synonymous to meditation. With a print that you own, you share a part of artist energy and emotion with a few people who are exactly like you! You in a way co-own a painting and each one an original piece of art!

Next time when you see a print, please bother to check the process, and get for yourself a small portion of artist’s emotion. With the new generation of sharing social-media and co-working spaces, let us now co-own a work of art, each of us adoring one of ourselves.

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