Artist's proof

From Academic Kids

An artist's proof is a single print taken in the printmaking process to see the current printing state of a plate while the plate (or stone, or woodblock...) is being worked on by the artist.

Rembrandt's etchings are notorious for having many artist's proofs in circulation: while some artists regard them as competing works and destroy them, others recognize their unique value to the art world and to the community of collectors. Art historians, curators, and collectors view them as a snapshot of a work in progress, illustrative of the path the artist took; especially in the case of dead artists, they can be the only evidence of the artist's incremental development of an image, something not usually available with drawings, paintings, or sculpture.

Collectors also value artist's proofs because they are unique images. Prints are generally sold as limited editions, with a print being cheaper than a drawing or painting because the artist/gallery makes more money by selling multiples. An artist's proof has special value because of its uniqueness and its possible differences from the "standard" print, factors that are often reflected in its price.

Since printmaking is a very technical area compared to other mediums, many artists choose to work with print shops, rather than develop the expertise themselves. The print shop provides technicians skilled in the process; the artist provides the art. It is customary in these cases to pay the technicians with a signed artist's proof, in addition to his wages. This has resulted in some very impressive collections of prints owned by printmakers themselves, built over a long career working with a wide variety of artists.

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