A question appeared in the inbox recently, and I’m wondering what you think: A brother and sister inherited two of my dad’s paintings and devised a plan for how to best enjoy them. They decided to each keep one painting and wrote to ask if they could make two giclées — high quality digital copies, most likely on canvas, made on an inkjet printer. This way, brother and sister could enjoy both paintings in each of their homes.
I opened the attachment and looked at two images of large originals, complex in design and swooshing with my dad’s signature greys and the painterly strokes of his brights and flats. They oozed with his passions: inclement skies, old boats, rigging, foreground rocks and scrub, dotted with his colour surprise of cadmium red and signed lower right in his personal script. I closed my eyes and saw him posted in his easel chair, locked in a state of committed mastering and love. What an endless gift the inbox provides, delivering paintings that have long left the studio and now return only to visit, with new lives, through new eyes.
As you probably know, the copyright of visual artwork, even after sold into private or public collections, remains with the artist or, posthumously, the artist’s archive or estate. Permission or licensing is required to make reproductions. This law is designed to protect the artist, the value and integrity of the original painting and against misuse of the artwork image. Each artist’s oeuvre, including all the work held in other collections and their past, present and future provenance is in this way, hopefully, shielded from dilution or the confusion of copies. In these days of printing on canvas with inkjets, giclées can look almost indiscernible from originals. A friend once told me she knew a girl who took iphone photos of irresistible images in galleries, with plans to make personal prints for private use.
While the inquiry was meant simply as a venture for brother and sister to each share in the joy of both paintings, at the risk of disappointing, the idea just somehow doesn’t feel right. How, I wonder, to best honour the integrity of his work and to meet my obligation as the custodian of his archive to his lifelong collectors, his dealers, his champions, his heirs and all the possible, future generations who may one day share their lives with his paintings? A simpler question may be how best to enjoy his strokes, as my dad intended them to be experienced?
PS: “Art is a personal quest for quality. Quality is the forerunner of acceptance. Character is the forerunner of quality. Be your own discriminating connoisseur.” (Robert Genn)
Esoterica: “We live in remarkable times. Technology knows no bounds. Some of these giant photocopy machines put down dye-based inks, others, particulate pigments. Machines can make a million squirts a second — some work from as many as 400 different hues. I’m sure that just around the corner there’s an invention of some sort of heat-set puff-paint digital system that will load up a print with convincing impasto. Giclée watercolours currently take experts to tell the difference. Scary. But just as no machine, in spite of many patents pending, has yet been invented that gives a man a decent haircut, we will still continue to appreciate work that is thoughtfully done by hand.” (Robert Genn)
The audio letters are now ready to give as a gift!
The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.
“What we artists do is important stuff.” (Robert Genn)