Friday, October 15, 2010

Impasto Makes the Un-Gilded Lily

A while ago I posted about the late illustrator and fine-arts painter Pino Dangelico. In passing, I mentioned that some giclée reproductions of his paintings featured "enhancement" by the artist. I think this matter bears elaboration.

I'm no expert on this, my observations here are largely based on casual visits to art galleries in places such as Carmel and Palm Desert. But, to add a bit of hard data, here is a site with prices for Pino Giclées, both basic and "enhanced" or "embellished" (both terms are used).

The prices seem lower than those I'm familiar with for a Pino giclée, but the important information is that, in this instance, having the artist grab a brush and put a few thick swaths and dabs of white or other light colored paint on it have the market effect of doubling the presumed value.

This can be a nice, almost-instantly realized benefit for an artist, gallery owner or on-line vendor: the artist's hand certifiably touched the reproduction and thereby increased its intrinsic worth.

If I were in the position of having to make paintings to pay my bills, I'd probably happily go along with the enhancement process. But I'd also realize that there are issues. Not easily resolved ones at that.

Obvious issues involve the worth of a reproduction as opposed to that of the painting that is reproduced. Capitalist tool me, I simply shrug my shoulders and assert that whatever The Market is, is.

Then there is the matter of input by the artist. An interesting case is posed in the book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark where it is related that heads were scratched in puzzlement when Damien Hirst's glass-encased, formaldehyde-preserved stuffed shark began to deteriorate badly and had to be replaced. Would a new stuffed shark be the same "work of art" or something different? Was the artist's "intent" more important than the physical "art" itself? Again, no easy answer.

But the issue that interests me most with respect to "enhancement" is the effect of additional artist input to an image. In most cases, the source painting for any reproduction represents something close to what satisfied the artist. Coloration, composition, any textural elements (thickly and thinly painted areas, effects of visible brush strokes) and other factors combine into what is presumably a "balanced" work of art.

Therefore, if the original is about as good as one can expect, then any additions by the artist are likely to change this "balance" and probably make the result aesthetically inferior to the original.

And this is what I almost always perceive when I encounter giclées "enhanced" by Pino himself; the resulting image is less satisfying than the original. Moreover, I also find it less satisfying than that of an un-enhanced giclée. Assuming I couldn't afford a Pino original (a very good assumption), I'd probably buy an unmodified giclée rather than one bearing the artist's own brushstrokes. Because I'd like it better.


dearieme said...

We watched a documentary on the telly this evening which had a few shots of paintings by Atkinson Grimshaw. Never 'eard of 'im - but by golly they were good. Have you run across him?

Donald Pittenger said...

dearieme -- No, but I'll try to remember to look him up once I return home. (I'm typing this on a French keyboard in Marrakech, home of the famous Crosby, Stills, et al Express. Computer access is hit-and-miss. Typing is slow because when I want . I get ; and when I hope to strike an a I get q. What fun!)