Printed Matter, the collecting of Prints

July 21, 2017

Printed Matter, the collecting of Prints

Collecting antique or vintage prints can be a great hobby, it does't have to cost a fortune and as long as you have wall space in the house to hang them they don't clutter shelves or take floor space.

Exactly which kind of print is entirely up to the collector.  The subject matter is vast, you might like to remain traditional and hunt for local scenes or fashion plates. Or even decorate with framed advertising prints from the 1930's.

Prints became fashionable in the late 18th and early 19th century, people who couldn't afford watercolours or oil paintings found that they could fill walls with pictures at relatively low cost. Every large town or city would have a print shop selling the latest editions, one well known  early 19th century print shows the frontage of a print shop, with eager customers crowding the pavement looking at the latest editions hung in the window.  These would sometimes cause great amusment as satirical cartoons by Gilray and others would show caricatures of Politicians or Royalty sometimes in compromising positions.  These cartoons are still highly collectable today.

Alllegorical subjects were popular in the early 19th century, such as the four seasons depicted as four young girls.  One in a leopard skin as Winter, one with a wreath of fresh flowers as Spring, Summer could be a girl with a sheaf of corn, and Autumn a girl with a cornucopia of fruit.  

One printmaker, Bartolozzi, specialised in stipple engravings of allegorical subjects and print versions of paintings of well known figures of the day.

A way of displaying prints popular in the eighteenth and early ninteenth century was the print room.  Prints arranged and pasted to the walls were surrouded by printed borders and swag decorations.  These borders can still be obtained today due to a revival in the 1980's, however if the print used is valuable it is better to get it photocopied to paste!  A popular subject of the 19th century were views of country houses, these can work well in a print room. 

Many ladies like to collect fashion plates, these prints were issued in editions regularly throughout the year for the latest fashions.  Many are from the Regency period right through to the 1870's.

Whatever the subject the collecting and display of prints can be fun and rewarding.

PvB