| Because a “print” is the result of a “reproductive” process, the terms
“original print” and “reproduction” may be confusing.
According to “A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques” by Ralph Mayer (New York: Thomas
Y. Crowell, 1969):
“Original print: any print made by a recognized graphic-arts process in which the artist has created the master image on the plate, block, stone, screen, or transfer paper and has printed it
himself. In the case of a technically involved process such as lithography, a professional printer may assist the artist in pulling the proofs. The term original print, which has been adopted by the Print Council of America, distinguishes such proofs from mechanical or photographic reproductions that are executed neither by the artist nor under his supervision. Since the early 20th century original prints have been signed in pencil on the lower right-hand margin of the print, close to the bottom of the impression.
“Reproduction: a general term for any copy, likeness, or counterpart of an original work of art or of a photograph, done in the same medium as the original or in another, and done by someone other than the creator of the
How can you tell if an old “painting” is a painting or actually a print?
Usually this can be done without the use of x-ray machines and other
expensive hi-tech equipment or techniques.
Almost all paintings show brush strokes of some type, even if very faint or not very thick. Can you see any brush strokes at all?
Almost all printed matter is done using overlapping dot patterns comprised of the colors cyan, yellow, magenta and black. If your painting is a print, magnifying it a substantial amount will reveal the dot pattern which is measured either as Dots Per Inch (DPI) or Lines Per Inch (LPI). There are fine dot patterns (art prints) and rough dot patterns (newspapers photos) but modern printed matter almost always has them.
Most paintings start out as some sort of pencil sketch. Shining a strong light through a painting can sometimes reveal the painter's original drawing and possibly some original components of the painting that the artist abandoned and decided to cover with something else. A print will show none of these.
If you find numbers on the painting such as “89 of
500”, that would be a limited edition print and the number of your particular print. Some painters also offer signed copies of limited edition prints.