If one wants to print to the same level as the master printers that have come before it is important to view and have access to original prints of the particular process you are trying to perfect. As part of my postgraduate course in printmaking 4 years ago I made regular visits to the print room at the V&A museum primarily to view photogravures, as this was my area of study at the time. They house some exceptional prints that one can view for as long as you like, the staff are very helpful and the room is usually not that busy. I spent another day there yesterday and it distilled how important it is to view original prints vs. reproductions in books etc.. preferably not behind glass. I try to stress this point to all the people that I teach on workshops, as the difference in most cases is significant.
The V&A have around 20 of Irving Penn’s platinum prints in their vaults and I had the pleasure of viewing a good number of them. I took the book
Two other stand out prints for me were ‘Camel Pack’, the detail of the original print is quite extraordinary and has a great sense of depth and three dimensionality to it that the reproduction understandably does not portray.
‘Nubile Beauty of Diamare Cameroon’, again was a stunning print, the way the texture of the skin is reproduced in the portrait is the best I have seen of any platinum print.
Later on in the day I had the chance to view the Edward Steichen: Early Years Portfolio, (1900-1927) which contains 12 photogravures of Stiechen’s most iconic images. Printed in 1981 by Jon Goodman for Aperture, these are some of the finest photogravures I have ever seen. They are quite magical when viewed and have an almost metallic sheen to them which was quite unexpected. I recommend viewing this portfolio for anyone interested in his work or indeed printmaking in general. My favourite had to be a portrait of Edward Steichen and Clara at
Lake George which is beautiful print and has great depth and texture to it and also 'Torso, Paris,1902'
All in all a productive day and I went home really inspired.