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New Exhibit at Springfield Art Museum Explores the World of Printmaking

Art Museum Exhibit
Art Museum Exhibit/Credit Rebekah Clark

What’s the difference between a reproduction and an original print? The Springfield Art Museum’s new exhibit, entitled Proof of Process: the Art of Printmaking, highlights the secrets and techniques. The exhibit also features a display of the history of print, and holds a large array of original prints from the gallery’s permanent collection. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.


Nick Nelson, director of the museum, walks through the new exhibit with his colleague, Cindy Quayle, who serves as the museum’s preparator, or someone who helps collect and preserve art pieces for different exhibits in the museum.

“We’re looking at a display that tries to explain the difference between an original print and a reproduction.”

This piece features four different pictures of artwork. On the left side of the display sits one newspaper photo and a colorful still life painting of food and wine on a table. To the right sits two dark etchings: one of a sitting man and woman under a tree and another linoleum etching of a horse.

“On the right side we have original prints, so you can see with the magnifying glass how you have solid blocks of color. You can see the line and the ink that’s been laid down. Here, especially on this newspaper, if you look very closely, you can see sort of the dot pattern; this is called the half-tone process, which is akin to pixels on your television screen. You know that something is commercially produced when you can see that dot pattern.”

Welcome to the world of art curating. Both experts say in order to tell the difference between a copy and an original print, you have to find out how it’s made. An original print can be created through a variety of different processes, such as woodcarving, etching, lithography, etc., but the piece is made directly from the artist themselves. These prints can be transferred onto stone, linoleum, paper, wood, or just about any medium that can hold print. A reproduction, such as a poster or newspaper, is commercially produced and can be replicated by anyone.

The first block printing was transferred on cloth, a common practice in the 1300s. When paper became popular in the 1400s, many prints were made of small woodcut religious images. Then, in 1440, German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press. The printing press introduced an era of mass communication, and the popularity of all kinds of printmaking.

On display in this exhibit is a model of a printing press.

“In January, the Springfield Regional Arts Council will be loaning us a press and we will be doing demonstrations in there,” said Nelson.

Quayle says many of the pieces on display are prints created by local artists.

 “Deby Gilley is a professor at SBU, she teaches printmaking. We’ve got etchings and engravings on loan from Judith Fouler, she’s also a professor and she teaches print-making. Marcus Howell, who’s an assistant professor at MSU, he’s loaned us several pieces and equipment, including the press.”

Some of the museum’s permanent print collection is also on display, and includes original pieces by German printmaker and painter, Gustave Baumann, French baroque printmaker Jacques Callot, Mauricio Lasansky, Rembrandt van Rijn, Albrecht Durer and others.

Throughout the exhibit, which runs through March 17, the museum will feature live printmaking demonstrations for both adults and children. The museum has created a hands-on section of the exhibit that allows anyone to feel the texture of different print pictures.

“You can actually pick up and handle these prints because sometimes by feeling the surface of the print, you can feel the plate mark. You feel that sort of indention? That’s called the plate mark. That’s another way you can tell if something is a reproduction or actually an etching if there’s no plate mark.”

Many of the hands-on activities will start in January. Nelson says before the exhibit is over, the museum will allow visitors the opportunity to create their own prints from an etching plate.

For more information, or to see photos of the gallery’s exhibit, visit KSMU.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.60

Springfield Art Museum Until I Wake in Mornings Light, by Deby Gilley Comparison of reproductions and original prints Which is the Printing press and four different original prints Lithnographic print Variety of etching prints by local artists