Chapter One of Theodore Donson’s book Prints and the Print Market: A Handbook for Buyers, Collectors and Connoisseurs is “Of Autographic Prints, Afters and Reproductive Prints”. Available on BookFinder.com, published in 1977, Donson’s book is indispensible for anyone collecting original prints. Donson nicely explains his goal in writing the book. -Print buyers need help to ascertain they are getting what they believe they are paying for. (paraphrased)
After prints or D’apres artworks are renditions made by skilled artists. They can either be extremely similar to an existing drawing or painting by a well-known artist OR they can be a pastiche. A pastiche consists of compositional elements employed by a skilled artist, “borrowed” from a well-known artist to create a new composition. A pastiche can trigger the impression the result was indeed created by the well-known artist.
The print shown above is a pochoir (French for stencil). Its signature is not hand-applied in graphite, but was produced by stencil concurrent with the print being printed–therefore “signed in the plate”. Likely it closely resembles a drawing by Marc Chagall. Further research may reveal its inspiration.
Why do after prints exist? It is believed they were intended to make “good art” more affordable for the general public. Typically the edition size is 300. Sometimes the edition size is not declared. Following World War II a number of after prints began to appear. Sometimes the well-known artists took an active part in their production, permitting a skilled artist to copy their works, but in some cases they did not.
Which well-known artists ? Georges Rouault, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Salvador Dali, George Braque, Jean Dufy, Raoul Dufy, Marcel Gromaire, Rene Magritte, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Pablo Picasso, Maurice de Vlaminck, Jacques Villon, Wassily Kandinsky to name a few.
Simply, after prints represent a translation artworks by one artist by still a different artist. Surprisingly they sell for more money than you might expect, but definitely less than an artwork made by the original artist. Couleur Amour: La Danseuse Aux Oiseaux after Marc Chagall is priced $1,368.00 from a gallery in Paris (advertised online) with a complete explanation about its technique, size, naming the publisher, the printer, the paper and its condition.
Currently Bookfinder.com has 125 used copies of Donson’s book for sale starting at $7.48, offering over 450 pages of instruction in print connoisseurship. Savvy collectors need to understand what they are acquiring, as not all sellers understand or choose to represent accurately what they are making available.