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A Brief History of Art Prints in Australia

August 8th, 2018BlogNo Comments »

A Brief History of Art Prints in Australia

When I was a teenager in the 60s I think I had only one friend whose family house had an art print on their wall. It was a Tretchikoff image of an oriental lady with a green face! It must have had some impact on me because I remember it very clearly and it possibly had a profound effect on my life. Wall art prints were definitely not an item in Australia in your average home until probably the late 70’s.

We even have a framed art print of Tretchikoff’s “Green Lady” in our stockroom right now.

I just couldn’t get it out of my system.

Green Lady by Tretchikoff

In 1979 I was a bit stuck for money and was scratching my head about what I was going to give my family and friends for Christmas. I had been a visual merchandiser in the late 60s and the thing I loved most was making props for the windows. One day whilst running down the stairs at work I had one of those fleeting ideas (they come and go like lightning) that I could create a business creating and selling “wall art”.

Back to 1979 …. after reviewing a few ideas I decided to mount down some Japanese wood block prints (from a poster book) onto chipboard and thought that these would make great economical gifts.

Well, they were very well received and my new business, Kyoto prints was born.

My favourite artist was Kitagawa Utamaro, his women were both beautiful and graceful.

Ase o Fuku Onna (Woman Wiping Sweat by Utamaro)

The beautiful image above is still part of the Artscope range. We also have a huge selection of images by other Japanese artists from the Ukiyo-e period including over 100 images by Hokusai. There must be literally 1000’s of these block mounted Japanese wall art prints in Australian homes from the late 70s and early 80s.

The whole wall art print thing happened big time in the 1980s. Throughout the first half of the 80s we specialised in block mounting ( Block mounting is the process of mounting or sticking any print or poster to a solid backing board which allows you to hang your artwork with a frame-free finish.) Firstly the Japanese prints, then we got into The Heidelberg School of Art.

Then came The Impressionists, The Expressionists, Black and White Photography by the iconic European photographers like Doisneau, Willy Ronis etc. I learnt so much about art and artists during this period and it really did shape my life. Here’s one you’ll all remember from the great French photographer Robert Doisneau. I’d hate to imagine how many of these art prints we put together and sold. 

The Kiss Outside The Hotel D’Ville by Robert Doisneau.

We were able to introduce people from all over Australia to a “brief history of art” through our diverse range of wall art images. Wall art was “king” and prints by Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Kandinsky, Picasso etc, etc adorned the walls of Australia. For the next decade art prints were huge.

Sometime towards the end of the 20th century art prints sort of went out of fashion. People wanted original art and for those that couldn’t afford original art the images available as prints got a bit “chocolate boxy”.

We started Tusk Gallery in the early 2000s and concentrated on sourcing original art by artists who we personally loved.

In 2014 Dee Jolly, a contestant on The Block television show purchased an original silk painting by John Martono, an artist from Indonesia who was exhibiting at the Gallery. The people at The Block Shop asked us to produce a wall art print (of John’s original silk painting “Intrigue”) to sell to “Block” enthusiasts in Australia. I for one, scratched my head, thinking nobody would want to put a print on their walls but I was 100% wrong and our new business, Artscope Fine Art Publishing was born.

“Intrigue” by John Martono. The first wall art print Artscope Fine Art Publishing ever printed

It’s now four years down the track and because of renovating shows like “The Block” and home design and decorating magazines, wall art prints are in huge demand. Back when I started we considered a print from The Metropolitan Museum of Art at 70x100cm was HUGE. We recently printed a framed print on canvas 250x175cm. The thing that makes Artscope Fine Art Publishing stand out from all of the other wall art print companies is that we print the work of real artists, artists that Tusk Gallery represents …… and they are fabulous.

Artists like John Martono, Miertje Skidmore, Kitti Narod, Paitoon Jumee, Cheryl Petersen, Pongsak Kamjornrasakemit and Melbourne Artist Joan Blond.

Here’s the latest framed art print in our range. “Daybreak At The Oasis” by Melbourne Artist Joan Blond. The original will feature on the 2018 series of The Block.

More later.

Gary Collier

Tusk Gallery/Artscope Publishing

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