Saturday, February 19, 2011


At the latest Appraisal Clinic for the Crocker Art Museum I saw many interesting pieces.

The highlights included:

A yellow ware figural spill and match holder circa 1860 -1870.

Limoge hand painted fish platter and 12 plates.

“Pickard” decorated tea set.

Art plate set by Jean Cocteau. (Similar style to Picasso plates)

San Ildefonso Pueblo black pottery bowl signed Maria and Santana.

Lithographs by John Steuart Curry, and T. V. Richardson,

Paintings by California artists - Henry L. Richter, Dana Bartlett, George Bickerstaff, and Wayne Thiebaud (pronounced Tee-bow).

The Wayne Thiebaud piece was particularly interesting as the Crocker Art Museum had just the night before given a lecture on this famous Sacramento Artist. In the lecture they described how in the beginning of his career he set up a few easels and sold paintings at the State Fair. Then the next day a lady brings in a wonderful Silk Screen painting of his, that at the age of thirteen she bought at the State Fair in the mid to late 1950‘s. Which was obviously worth considerably more than the few dollars she originally paid.

How to tell prints from paintings
As so often is the case I had several people bring in pieces they thought were original art pieces, either lithographs or paintings, that were in reality prints. It can be hard to tell the difference when you do not know what to look for, so I thought I would try to give some examples to help.



The picture at the left is an early doutone print used from 1880's to the mid 20th century. Two photographs were taken thru a screen with the screen slightly moved for the second photo. These were then printed in two different colors, one on top of the other. If you look close you can see the slight square shape the screen leaves to the dots of color. This technique was expanded and is the basis for most 3 and 4 color modern  prints.

The picture to the right uses several mechanical print methods. On the face and hands variable sized dots of color are used to shad the face, hands, and hat. The background shows a common modern mechanical print with a typical “flower” or dot in circle pattern. Many modern prints have this pattern, some with the colors of the circles being different or shaded but showing the same general pattern.

These are some of the most common color print methods that with a decent magnifying glass are easy to detect. And hopefully this can help you avoid buying a print you think is a watercolor or other original art piece. Now there is nothing wrong with prints. In fact many modern artists are selling limited edition prints as the major part of their art sales. However, if you buy these be sure they are a signed limited edition with a number designating how many were produced. Usually shown as 1/100 with the first number being the number of this print and the second being the total number made. The lower total made, the higher the value and the last print made is usually worth more than the first. (The opposite of engravings where earlier pieces bring the premium price.)

Chromolithographs are another confusing color print technique but are easy to explain. Dots of solid color are laid down one on top of the other. With the shading being the overlapping of various amounts of colors. This technique can make very bright vibrant colors that from a distance look like a painting. Early Maxfield Parrish prints are an example of the quality of this technique. Some of the early Chromolithographs used fairly large dots and thus are easy to see up close, even with the naked eye.