Contrary to what you might think, this is quite a complicated question. The Concise Oxford Dictionary contains the following definition:

"ori'ginal, a. & n. 1. Existent from the first, primitive, innate, initial, earliest," "that has served as a pattern, of which copy or translation has been made, not derivative, not imitative, novel in character or style, inventive, creative, thinking or acting for oneself." "2.n. Pattern, archetype, thing from which another is copied or translated,"

..When it comes to art, most people use the term ORIGINAL to describe paintings which have been manufactured by hand. Clearly, if such works are one of a kind then they are ORIGINAL. But a grey area exists where works executed by hand are copies, derivative and imatitive, of an already existing work or even of each other.

If an artist paints a copy of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa would you expect it to be described as original art? Of course not. Some companies in parts of Asia have factories which produce oil paintings. This is done on a conveyor belt. Several individuals combine efforts to produce each painting. A roll of canvas, sometimes two hundred feet long, will contain numerous paintings of the same COMPOSITION. The BRUSH STROKES are essentially the same. The form, colour and concept are identical. One individual will lay in all the backgrounds, another the shorelines, another the grass, another the trees, another the birds etc. In the United States artists have lobbied for such works to carry the label " Warning - this is not original art". They are probably best described as "hand painted reproductions"

On the other hand, some artists choose to produce original images on a printing press. With printing processes such as INTAGLIO printing the composition is created directly on the PRINTING PLATE. The resulting print is an ORIGINAL image and not a reproduction of a previously executed work.

This has led to the introduction of the term ORIGINAL PRINT . Such items would probably be more clearly defined as original ENGRAVING or ETCHING or DRYPOINT etc. For many people the term ORIGINAL PRINT appears to be a contradiction of terms and has created much confusion.

To unravel this confusion we must first examine the word PRINT which is popularly misused to describe one of many reproductions of a printed image. This term is correctly applied when describing a particular image which has been printed. There may be any number of reproductions of this image, dependent upon the size of the EDITION, and each reproduction is correctly termed an IMPRESSION. e.g. An artist has three compositions which he has printed. One is called "Dawn", another "Jungle", another "Sail boat". It is accurate to say he has made three PRINTS even if he has made a thousand IMPRESSIONS of each. If the printed images were created on the PRESS and are not imitative of, or generated from, another work then he is justified in describing them as ORIGINAL PRINTS.

This term has also been applied to SERIGRAPHS. If the composition has been created during the screen process and is seen for the first time only when the first print is complete then the term is correctly applied. If however, as is often the case, the COMPOSITION is a copy of an existing image then it is not correctly applied.

..Vs....Vs.. .

In conclusion, the same criteria should be applied to paintings and prints alike. If the COMPOSITION is created for the first time then it is ORIGINAL. If it is a copy of another work then it is not........ even when it's been executed by hand.

Nick ..........

Island Arts of the YodaGuy
Antigua, West Indies & Sint Maarten, Netherland Antilles


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