During the production of a fine art print there are many different states and proofs made of the work. The first prints of any print run are designated as artists’ proofs. The next prints are usually numbered from 1 to the final number of that edition. In the end the printing plate is traditionally destroyed. However, before the plate is retired a final proof, or restrike, can be made. This restrike print is the least expensive print in the edition.
What it is
A restrike is any print that is made that is not part of the original print run. Often a restrike is made for the benefit of those in possession of a plate after an artist’s death. Rembrandt’s prints are probably the bestl known of these late print runs. Restriking has a detrimental effect on the art market and makes it hard to gauge the value of a print. When the market becomes flooded with restrike prints there is the potential for counterfeiting. There is no substitute for the master printer’s mark of an edition, or the artist’s signature on the original print. The value of a print is not just in the image, but is also that the hand of a great artist was present on the paper and the ink of the print.
Rembrandt often reworked his own plates after the initial run. He would add drypoint lines and remove areas of an etching to achieve various effects in the final print. In some cases the third or fourth run would look nothing like the original. These kinds of restrikes are more acceptable and there is a gray area between what constitutes a restrike and what constitutes a second or third state print run. Many of Rembrandt’s apprentices kept the original plates and tried their hands at restriking the master’s work in order to make a living.
Although there are many reasons why restrike prints are harmful to the art market, they are an affordable way to own prints that would otherwise be quite expensive. There are many sites on the Internet which carry these restrike prints. Many sites offer a large quantity of restrike prints at very reasonable prices. Just remember that you get what you pay for.
Are They Worth it?
Restrike prints make it affordable for more people to own a great work of art, but there is a question of how much greatness is inherent in the work without the involvement of the original artist. This question should be asked before making a purchase in order to be fully satisfied with the investment.
Elisabeth Johnson is a rhetoric and technical communications Ph.D. student with interests in social and humanitarian issues, ecocriticism and sustainability. She has been writing since 2005 and has published in the "Concho River Review" and the "San Angelo Standard Times." Johnson holds a B.A. and M.A. in English.