What is an original? What is the difference between a print and reproduction? I hope to clarify the terms for many that see no distinction between print and reproduction.
Why Does It Matter?
Why does this matter? If a buyer is a newbie in the purchasing of art, the terms reproduction and print are often bandied about as if they are the same thing. In California and New York, legally, the terms must accurately describe what the artwork is. Otherwise, the buyer can be sold a print when in actuality, it is a reproduction.
An original refers to any piece of artwork that is a one of a kind: painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.
A print may be made in a number of ways: silkscreen, etching, silver point, collagraph, lithograph, woodcut, as examples. A print is made by the artist from a plate (metal, wood, silk, etc.) and these prints are “pulled” by the artist, signed and numbered at the bottom in pencil. A/P refers to an artist proof. The edition (or number) is often limited and the numbering may be something like this: 1/5, meaning first print out of five prints. A single print is a “monoprint” and more than one are “multiple originals”.
A reproduction is a copy of an original. The artist may or may not be deceased, but the numbering, if any, rarely has any meaning as the method is more mechanical and the artist may not be the producer of the reproduction. The edition can be quite large, i.e. in the thousands, or virtually unlimited. Posters are an example of reproductions. Using a printer to scan and produce copies of an original drawing or painting results in another form of reproduction.
The price of an original should surpass that of a print; and a reproduction should cost the least of the three, all things being equal.