The London Original Print Fair returns to the Royal Academy, 27 February-2 March. This serious event brings together twenty-four top dealers covering Old Master to contemporary prints. It is the only specialist print fair in Europe, with a third of the dealers coming from overseas. Representing contemporary British artists and printmakers are Flowers Graphics, Marlborough, Alan Cristea and Pratt Contemporary, all with new works to show. Old Master dealers include Christopher Mendez, André Candillier from Paris and newcomer Eric Ariens Kappers from Amsterdam. Other dealers bring a broad cross-section from all periods.
Many print dealers do not have galleries, or are tucked away in rather obscure upstairs premises, so the fair is their annual outing. Museums, curators and collectors from Europe and America attend and if you are hunting down a rare edition, trying to match a set or wishing to see the most recently published modern British prints, this fair’s the place.
While dealers are encouraged to take a lot of trouble over framing and presentation, there is always an overwhelming impression of too many cream-coloured mounts and pale wood frames, so the arrival of Norman Blackburn from the Ledbury Road is a welcome addition. “All my prints will be close-mounted in period frames, and we will blitz the walls, hanging them as they would have looked in the eighteenth century. I will be bringing solidly interesting period pieces, which may be a little more popularist than some of the grander prints by Rembrandt, Dürer, Picasso and Munch”, he says.
Andrew Edmunds provides another lighter element with his outrageously rude eighteenth- and nineteenth-century political caricatures. Elizabeth Harvey Lee always has interesting and unexpected things and makes the wonderful claim that her stock covers the period 1490-1940. This year she has a special exhibition of the etchings of R.T.Cowern, one of the masters of the last flowering of the British etching tradition, of whose work she has just written a catalogue raisonné. Christopher Mendez, one of Britain’s top Old Master print dealers, claims to have the cheapest print in the fair, a costume design by Hollar of 1646 for £60.
Gordon Cooke, who specialises in British prints from 1850 to 1950 and founded the fair twelve years ago, has just announced that he has stopped trading on his own to become a director of the Fine Art Society. The Society will therefore make its first appearance at the fair and a vibrant programme of print exhibitions is planned for the gallery in the future, starting with young British artists of the 1920s.
It is well worth visiting the fair just for the loan exhibition which has come from the beleaguered Rembrandt House in Amsterdam, urgently in need of funds to extend and renovate its buildings. Thirty of Rembrandt’s finest etchings from the collection will be shown, among them the highly topical Clement de Jonghe, printseller, 1651, who owned many of Rembrandt’s etching plates.