No doubt you will have
noticed that most old prints, no matter how rare or expensive, have, to a
greater or lesser degree, faded to dull browns and olive greens with
residual hints of red and blue over mottled, beige or pale brown paper.
Even those that were hand-coloured have, to a certain extent, suffered the
same fate but with the added faults of careless colouring, splashes,
dribbles and colour bleed. It’s no surprise that prints are not the most
sought after objects in the art world.
Time Takes Its Toll
Unfortunately, no matter how good the original, antique
prints deteriorate rapidly with time and so those that have any real age are
very poor echoes of their former selves. As an example, drawn at random from
the art market today, you will find, below, a direct quote from an
auction catalogue where the auctioneers have honestly and truly described
the condition of a very important print which, because it was always
valuable, will have been treasured and cared for by its former owners. And
the description is only of faults that have occurred beyond those of normal
ageing. It is assumed, (and rightly so) that everyone knows and understands
that it is the nature of antique prints that they will also display all the
additional problems explained below.
Too Many Hands
Before the late 19th Century*,
coloured prints were produced in a multi-stage process. The illustrator or
artist provided the original artwork, usually in watercolour. An engraver
(sometimes the artist himself) traced the image outlines and by using an
off-set process transferred these outlines to the plate. This provided guide
lines for an intaglio method of acid-etching (aquatint) or the direct
engraving of the outlines into the surface. The details and shading were
then added freehand or using various mechanical copying devices. The plate
was then used to print the resulting outlines and shading to the final paper. The paper
would have been of very low standard to modern eyes with all kinds of odd
inclusions from the raw materials used. The printed sheet would then be
worked by a colourist, adding blocks of colour within the outlines. For a
single print run there would be many individual colourists each using an
individual palette of colours, some of whom would complete an entire
page, while others would be involved in colouring just a single part of
The opportunity for error and fault arose at each stage -
and arise they did. Wood, copper and stone plates wear out very quickly.
Slow-drying inks and paints eagerly migrate by capillary action along paper
fibres. Water-based colours bleed into each other. Colourists, paid by the
piece, worked quickly, often in poor light, cutting corners wherever
possible, often using apprentices or even children to do the more mundane
areas. The resulting errors, omissions and faults are, without
exception, evident in every antique print.
A Simple Recipe for “Antiquing”
In an atmosphere thick with industrial pollution, coal
and tobacco smoke, add to the print some fungal spores and store in a damp
atmosphere. Wait while the paper is oxidized to a patchy beige or mottled
brown. Allow complex chemical changes in the unstable dyes and pigments to
take effect. Encourage generations of microbes and mites to add their
contribution to the mix. Sprinkle on liberal quantities of household dust
and occasionally handle roughly with dirty or greasy fingers. Brush down
from time to time with a stiff-bristled brush, soft cloth or feather duster
impregnated with micro-fine coal-ash grit. Cough and sneeze over it at will.
Expose to direct sunlight at every opportunity. Continue with this regime for 120 years or more.
All things considered, it's a miracle that any antique
prints survive at all. Sadly, those that have, are nothing like the
original artists’ and engravers' splendid work . . . . . . . until now.
RESTORATION - HOW
We locate the best surviving available copy of an
original print which is then digitally re-mastered using a huge amount of
dedicated human effort and very sophisticated optical equipment and
software. These are used in combination to correct the engraving and
printing errors, remove the defects and restore the colours. Much of the
work is completed at very high magnification to ensure that no matter how
closely the resulting print is examined, it will continue to impress. There
are no shortcuts, no quick fixes. For example,
Audubon's Mocking Bird print required over
250 man hours to complete. Nothing is added and the images are not
embellished in any way. However, blindingly obvious technical errors are
corrected as a clearly stated option. Reference is made at every stage to
the original artwork, the author's notes and descriptions (if these are
available) and to nature so that the colours are as would have been seen and
painted at the time. The final reprint uses the highest quality,
multi-colour, permanent, light-fast inks printed at the highest possible
resolution on the best available archive grade, fine art paper.
As much care and attention is dedicated to the
backgrounds as to the main subject.
So that you can gain a complete and true appreciation of
the full impact of the resultant prints, each print image on this web site
is shown together with at least one life-size or enlarged image (when
displayed at a typical domestic monitor screen resolution of 90 ppi).
Some of the titles and
credits have been re-written using closely matching fonts. This can be
necessary where these were added by hand using organic inks that have since
deteriorated to an unacceptable degree or were poorly drafted in the first
place. These were not, in any case, part of the image itself and were almost
certainly not written by the original artist. On major works, a restoration
credit has been added with the text in a matching font.
It's a very slow and costly process
but the results can be absolutely stunning, hugely better than the surviving
original prints and even better than they were on the day that they were
first published . . . . . . as you will see.
* We do not restore later prints
that were mechanically coloured as their poor quality does justify the
enormous effort and expense involved.
This is an exact and full quote from
the November, 2008, Bonham's, Los Angeles auction catalogue describing in
detail the typical "fair condition" Audubon print.
After John James Audubon
(American, 1785-1851)The Bird of Washington, or Great American Sea
Eagle (Pl. 11), 1827
From the Havell edition of The Birds of America, handcolored
engraving with aquatint and etching on J Whatman Turkey Mill paper,
trimmed to or just within platemark, laid down, in fair condition
with restorations including an expertly repaired vertical tear at
center of image running the entire length of the print, 3½
in repaired horizontal tear at right sheet edge, 1½
in repaired vertical tear at lower sheet edge, unprinted area
around the bird extensively touched-in, filled-in surface rubs,
abrasions and pressure marks throughout, surface soiling, other
38 1/8 x 25in sheet 38 3/8 x 25in
Estimate: $7,000 - 9,000
WORKS OF ART
Oil paintings generally suffer from
craquelure* which quickly fills with dirt and is very difficult and
expensive to clean out or remove and so is often just varnished over at
the next "cleaning", thus making it absolutely impossible to eradicate.
In many cases the craquelure can be so offensive as to make an otherwise
attractive picture almost unviewable.
In addition, there was a tradition
of varnishing oil paintings, even when new, with a thick, protective coat
of boiled linseed oil. This yellows very quickly, especially in a sulphur
laden atmosphere as existed throughout Europe and America for 200 years
from from the mid 18th Century. It had the unfortunate habit of remaining
slightly sticky for many years after application, attracting a fine layer
of dust and dirt on its surface.
Just a bad as both of the above was
the universal use of white lead (Lead carbonate) as a primer and whitening
agent in oil paints. Its use continued from the very earliest days right
up to the late 1960s. This also discolours very rapidly in a sulphurous
atmosphere, a change that only reversible by the use of peroxide gels. But
this is an expensive and risky process best only carried out by an even
more expensive expert restorer.
These three faults are commonly
seen on almost all oil paintings more than 50 years old. If the the work
is not particularly valuable, the faults remain untreated since the
horrendous cost of correction can easily exceed the value of the work
The resultant severe visual
imbalance in the colours and the aesthetic intrusion of the fine dark
lines are the primary targets in the restoration of the fine images that
We treat watercolours in exactly
the same way as we treat prints, since they are essentially the same
medium and suffer the same effects and injuries.
We are constantly astonished by the
difference between the dull, discoloured and physically damaged originals
and the sparkling, true colour image that is revealed at the end of the
restoration process. But be assured, we never, ever embellish or
enhance the original artist's fine work.
* Craquelure: The fine, deep cracks in the paint
where the canvas has been stretched, rolled, bent or suffered a slight
impact or where oil paint has dried out and shrunk or combination of all
Large prints look best without a
mount (or matte) and set in swept gold, moulded frame about 1½
inches wide. Medium and small prints are best seen behind a plain white
mount about 2 inches wide within a neutral or medium coloured frame. Deep,
dark or heavy frames do not sit well with our fine prints.
We recommend that large prints (A1
and SuperA1 sizes) are framed by a professional as they can be awkward to
handle without creasing or buckling.
To frame prints to a professional
standard, in addition to the frame and glass you will need: archival
quality, self-adhesive foam backing board, a craft knife, cotton gloves,
craft paper, double-sided adhesive tape, mounting board and a mount cutter
(or a pre-cut mount). Your friends at the local photographic society will
probably lend you a mount cutter. The board, tape and paper are available
at any artists' supply outlet. If you are framing a large print then the
cost of the materials and the mount cutter will be substantially less than
the charge for a single frame-up from a professional framer.
If you try framing a print yourself
and you ruin it in the process you can claim under our no-quibble
PRINT AND PAPER
All Restored Prints are produced
by a smooth tone process using light-fast inks that are guaranteed,
under normal conditions, neither to fade nor discolour for at least 200 years. Heavyweight or ultra-heavyweight, museum quality, archive papers are
used for all non-photographic Restored Prints. 18th and 19th Century colour prints
are on Hahnemühle Smooth White Cotton Rag, 188gsm., matte finish, archive paper. Pre-18th Century etchings and
woodcuts from the likes of Gesner, Rembrandt and Dürer are on Hahnemühle "Dürer" textured surface papers.
Heavy duty card envelopes are used for prints
up to A4 in size. Larger prints are packed in specially made,
ultra-heavyweight, large diameter postal tubes having first been
wrapped in acid-free tissue paper Each print is accompanied by an
individually signed, numbered certificate.
NO QUIBBLE GUARANTEE
All prints are guaranteed for life against
fading and discoloration, the only condition being that the print has
not been exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time. The
ink and paper manufacturers give us a 100 years plus non-fade, non-discolour warranty. We
have total confidence in these claims.
If within 1 year of despatch you damage your print in
any way we will provide a replacement at half price, plus postage and
packing. To claim the replacement all you need to do is send us a
piece at least 4 inches by 4 inches (100mm x 100mm) cut from the
centre of the damaged print. This guarantee will not apply to prints
with a minimum sheet dimension in excess of 24 inches as printing and
shipping are a major part of the cost. We will however, provide
a replacement at a very substantial reduction to the list price.
"Hahnemühle" is the registered
trade name of Hahnemühle FineArt GmbH., Germany.
CONCERNING ALL RESTORED IMAGES AND
Under the Universal Copyright
Convention (as amended Jan 2007) and the Berne Convention
(1886 last amended 2011), original works of
art and intellectual endeavour remain in copyright for at least 25 years(1)
from the death of the author or artist. European work
protected for 70 years.
Reproductions of two dimensional images
(whether in copyright or not) that have
not been significantly changed during the
reproduction process and have not been subject to additional artistic or intellectual input (e.g.
photocopies and scans) do not confer any form of copyright on the copy nor the party producing that
The prints offered here have been extensively reworked using considerable artistic and intellectual input and
therefore copyright is applicable to all the
restored images offered until at least the year 2086.
Limited Copyright Release
Images may be downloaded from this website and used for any purpose subject only
to the condition that the copyright is acknowledged and an attribution
given to RestoredPrints.com (for example: Image courtesy of RestoredPrints.com
in the "alt" line of the image properties). Any on-line commercial use should, out of courtesy,
also clearly exhibit a link to this website.
We are happy to reciprocate in appropriate circumstances.
Warning: No release of copyright is given or implied in
respect of the Restored Prints themselves. Reproductions produced from these
images, regardless of format, will be a breach of copyright and such breach will pursued to the fullest possible extent of
Photographs are protected for a minimum of 10 years.
Note: Museums, galleries and public institutions
frequently and deliberately mislead their visitors with bogus claims of
copyright over direct reproductions of copyright-expired artwork in
( Unsolicited )
C., Wisconsin, USA
of the Roost by Archibald Thorburn
"The red grouse print is truly magnificent, with exquisite
color and fine detail. Many thanks!
Dr. W. D., Boston, USA. 2 Prints from Birds of America - John Audubon
The pictures are nothing less than stunning. The colours, brightness, and clarity
are just sumptuous. What wonderful images... !!
M. B. T-G., Dubai, UAE. 6 Prints from Birds of America - John Audubon & Mammals of Australia -
" What can I say? Magical."
P. W., West London, UK 3 Prints from Birds of Great Britain - John Gould
Have you made arrangements for these to be held in a national archive?
They are far too important to risk being lost to the nation."
W. v K., Drinten,
Netherlands 2 Prints from Birds of America - John Audubon
images. The eyes are just amazing - so alive!"
Brisbane, Australia Print from Mammals of Australia - John
"The Thylacine print is superb! Many thanks. When will the Lyre Bird be available?"
"E. v M., Diepenveen, Netherlands Print from Mammals of Australia - John Gould
"The Print arrived today, I was very impressed !"
G. W., Vancouver, Canada Print from British Entomology -John Curtis
"Wow! Way beyond anything I have seen
K. L., California, USA 4 Prints from Birds of America - John Audubon "The prints arrived
safely and look great - thanks so much!"