Answers to questions about original and/or unique prints are fairly subjective. There are various levels of originality within the field of printmaking, rendering a print’s classification to be complex; an equally complex explanation is necessary in order for our buyers to discern their tastes and objectives when collecting prints.
I will focus this discussion on the works by Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) as I consider him to be one of the most prolific and innovative printmakers of our time.
As mentioned earlier, there are many levels of originality in prints – the works created by Picasso are no exception. Picasso created many different forms of prints in varying mediums. Etchings, aquatints, linocuts, lithographs and ceramics were editioned under his direction and were made to his specifications. His physical involvement varied from work to work, but his creative input was never compromised. I consider any print authorized by Picasso (evidenced by his hand signature or his creation of the plates) to be an original work.
A few prints from the series titled the Barcelona Suite are featured at Masterworks Fine Art, Inc. (Harlequin and Mother & Child) published by the Museo Picasso in 1966. All works from this edition are offset lithographs, hand signed and authorized by Picasso as evidence of his approval for each print that was produced.
Another printer that Picasso worked with was Guy Spitzer who also helped produce offset lithographs featuring unique, hand-applied stencil coloring. I consider the prints by Spitzer to be quite nice – each have notations on the reverse of the sheet, stating their unique piece number and edition size; this is viewed as one of the earliest examples of official documentation for each Picasso print, similar to a certificate of authenticity.
Prints made in collaboration with printmaker Aldo Crommelynck are perhaps the most beautiful works ever created by Picasso (their inherent textural qualities and the depth of color is enhanced when viewed in person). In my opinion, the series by Crommelynck is better than the prints created from plates which Picasso made himself.
I think the major differences should be considered with the artist’s involvement with the printing process, and the level of originality of the process employed.