The difference between original prints and reproductions

Some people are either unaware of this distinction, or misunderstand it. The difference between an original print and a reproduction is related to how an image is physically transferred to paper, and by whom (the artist himself / herself, or machines and technicians). This has a bearing on the current and potential monetary value of the artwork you own. So if you're interested, take the time to read this brief background information.

First of all, these two categories, original prints and reproductions, exclude original drawings, paintings, and photographs. Drawing, painting, and photography are all ways for artists to make original two-dimensional artworks. Printmaking is another way, though one that is often less familiar to many people. The pictures thus made are called original prints. Printmaking includes different processes: the major categories are relief printing, intaglio, lithography, and screen printing. If the picture you own was printed in one of these techniques from a surface the artist himself worked on, it is an original print.

Reproduction is the term used for printed copies of original artworks. Confusion sometimes results, and is sometimes perhaps purposefully created by those marketing the artwork, due to the fact that original prints and reproductions are both printed. But a reproduction can be made of any flat artwork --- a painting, drawing, photograph, or original print --- by taking a photograph of it and using photographic, digital, and chemical technology to make printing plates.

From the 1500s to the 1800s there would have been less confusion, because printing technology didn't allow for the printing of a facsimile of a non-printed image, especially a full-color image like a painting. After the late 1800s, the invention of the halftone screen allowed for very close facsimiles of photographs to be printed in ink. Nowadays that poster or art book you own with paintings by Leonardo or Van Gogh has been printed from the photographs made of the original works.

Original prints, being original artworks themselves, are worth a lot more than reproductions of original artworks. An original painting by Picasso would probably be worth millions; an original print would be worth thousands; a reproduction of one of his artworks in the form of a poster or in a book isn't worth any more than its sale price. Since they aren't originals, reproductions wouldn't be considered part of an art collection.

If you're buying a reproduction of my oil painting, Shekhinah, chances are that it appeals to you for its message as well as its visual qualities. The print of Shekhinah that you may decide to purchase is a reproduction: it will not increase in value or have any value as an original artwork, because you’re not buying an original artwork, but rather a reproduction of one.

These reproductions have no edition numbers on them because I don't believe edition numbers are appropriate on reproductions. A long tradition in the printmaker's art is to number each print, usually under the lower right corner of the image, with a combination of numbers which look like a fraction. So if you see an original print with the edition number 23/100, it is the 23rd print pulled in a limited edition of 100 prints. It's also customary, though not universal, to destroy the plate or block after the printing of the limited edition, or the number of limited editions designated by the artist.

I don't know when it started, but I've sometimes noticed pictures, in doctor’s offices and similar locations, which were clearly reproductions, but had edition numbers written at the bottom. (These numbers are handwritten, like those on an original print would be.) I don’t agree with this practice, since it could be construed as an attempt to mislead the customer. Some people might know enough to associate such numbers with original, collectible art. To be clear, Shekhinah is not part of a limited edition, nor are the prints original artworks. They are reproductions of a larger original in oil. It is my hope that some Christians might appreciate having it on display in their home or church.