Sunday, April 11, 2021

Fine Art Prints - Part 17

Here at Goreyana, we have been discussing Edward Gorey's career as a fine art printmaker over the course of many years. Two previously unrecorded etchings by Mr. Gorey were sold recently at an auction of material from the inventory of The Gotham Book Mart which closed in 2007. Both of these etchings are unsigned and it is presumed these test prints are one of a kind examples with no other copies known. See my posts for Fine Art Prints - Part 15 and Part 16 for other one of a kind test prints.

The first etching shows three circus tumblers contorting in midair. This is a joyful image with a sense of whimsy about it. One of the interesting things to note is that, because the print is unsigned, there is no way to know precisely which direction Edward Gorey intended it to be oriented. The print was framed by The Gotham Book Mart as shown above, but any side could be up and the print would still look correct.
The second print sold at the auction is quite unique. It is the only known etching in Mr. Gorey's thumb series that is presented in color (he created three colored elephant prints, but they are single color prints). It is also the only print he made using multiple images collected on one page to create a window effect. The paper for this print is 15" x 22", making it the largest etching created by Mr. Gorey

As can be seen by the indentations on the reverse of the paper, the image was created using six individual printing plates. Each image is printed in three colors - three of the images are fairly obvious while the other three have the third color subtly applied. This would require infinite patience and meticulous planning. 
Each of the six plates would be prepared for printing, then the ink would be applied by hand with a roller. All six plates would then be aligned on the table of the press. The paper would be positioned, and the print would go through the press. The paper would be removed so the ink could dry, the ink cleaned off each of the six plates, and Mr. Gorey would alter the drawing on the surface of each plate. The process would start again, re-etching the plates, inking the colors, aligning the plates and paper and running it through the press. The process would start all over again for the third color. The edges of each image are slightly "soft" because no matter how careful he would have been, the plates would never perfectly align from one color to the next. This gives an appropriately atmospheric quality to these images.
To create this type of print, Mr. Gorey would start with the lightest and brightest color in each image. Each time he reprocessed the plate, he would have to add a resist to the areas that he wanted to stay bright and clean so the new color of ink would not "take". He would also draw new details onto the plate for each successive color. Unless Mr. Gorey printed more than one copy of this image, the finished print as shown will be the only example that will ever be possible to create from the plates, because the plates were permanently modified as the print progressed.