Friday, 8 February 2013
Ebay at your own risk
I had an interesting discussion with a reader very recently about the condition of prints. He rightly pointed out that there had not been enough discussion about this important issue when it comes to buying prints from, say, the twenties or thirties. I mean, I think you can get a bit too precious about these things, but now, as if by magic, there are three modern British prints by minor artists up for sale on ebay that show exactly what the problems are. At least two could fetch reasonable prices. But should they?
First off is Thomas Todd Blaylock, an artist who when it came to woodcuts was never shy about coming forward and laid the colour on with verve. At the top the rather drab image now on British ebay, below a typical Blaylock of a similar scene at Poole harbour near where he lived. You can see that all the paper on the top image has light-burn round the mount and in itself this should reduce the price quite alot. One dealer commented helpfully, I suppose, about the merits of restoration as part of much the same discussion. But this print is a terminal case way beyond help. Someone may come up with exactly the same image to prove me wrong, but till then there is a well-known print-blogger who likes to apply a bit of photo-shop technique to images of prints he considers past their best and then puts them back online where he found them. I think this is the print-equivilant of genetically modified crops and irresponsible. Faced with doctored images like that on the internet, you finally have no idea where you are when it comes to judging what a print should look like. But this Blaylock is beyond even his efforts at resuscitation - I hope.
By no means common, and quite nice to see, a Dutch canal scene, as it happens, by Frank Whittington. More ambiguous but still, I would say, not as it came off Whittington's press down at Brockenhurst. We don't see enough of Whittington to say how bright his prints should be, but reason tells you an artist doesn't go to the the trouble of cutting blocks to turn out a drab little print like this. Or do they? He often applied colour sparely in the way his friend Eric Hesketh Hubbard did, but may have decided on something basically monochrome - another Hubbard habit.
I would not want to prejudice anyone over this final conumdrum of a print by John Reginald Taylor. Not at all bad, but is it right as the trade like to say. The seller has it up as lino, but again do you go to the trouble and do you make a print of India that comes out tepid? The other option is the work is simply poorly-printed. When they come out of the package, you will have more of an idea. Till then, proceed with care.
Note: I have just come across a catalogue description for Blaylock's 'Fishing boats, Poole Harbour' (top): 'printed in blue and pink inks. on warm cream wove paper'. A printmaker told me only yesterday that pink was one of the first colours to fade, along with yellow.