I write this from the perspective of an artist who does not anticipate that her work will be readily reproduced. My original steel-on-cradle-board wall sculptures, with their layers of organically carved steel elements could, potentially, be reproduced by some sort of 3D printing method, but don't look for that while I am still alive. I choose to maintain a body of work that is composed entirely of originals.
Still, like most artists, I have the work of other artists in my home, and originals of the greats are often too budget bending for me. Yet, I am able to enjoy many of these greats by purchasing them in the form of a Giclée.
The Giclée print is to older forms of fine art reproduction as modern color photographs are to early tintypes. In other words-- Giclée is way better and creates the closest replica of an original piece of two-dimensional art that is possible with any technology today. The next best thing to owning the original artwork, Giclée comes at a much lower relative price. It is also widely accepted by the world's museums, galleries and artists because of its gratifying quality.
Not every digital print is a Giclée. A good Giclée is recognizable by the high quality of its reproduction, the result of special high resolution printers that use inks and other print media that meet unusually strict standards. The Giclée process renders a pleasingly smooth, true, and consistent image of the original painting or photograph. This makes for a quality fine art reproduction with a much longer life than has been possible with previous print-making methods.
Given the relatively recent advent of the Giclée (1991?) some history is in order. The term, " Giclée " (pronounced Zhee-Clay) was coined in 1991 by Jack Duganne, a printmaker at Nash printing. Duganne coined the term to describe the action of the ink jets that gave Giclée its quality, versatility and tone. Prior to that time, the method we now know as Giclee had been used primarily to produce high quality proofs from high quality digital prints which were then used to make plates for traditional printing. Duganne recognized that the ink jet method he was using for these proofs was a superior way to make fine art reproductions. He took the feminine noun version of the term, " Giclée," from a French word, "gicler," which means to squirt, spurt or spray. Viola, la Giclee!
Since that time, lithography which had been the primary method of reproducing fine art prints has become a distant second place choice. While it still has its adherents, serigraphy, or screen printing, has fallen behind both Giclée and lithography for fine art reproduction.
Lithography relied on a basic set of 4 colors to print the color spectrum. The lithographic colors were cyan (blue), magenta, yellow and black. Yes, it's true that a palette of three primary colors, a blue, a red and a yellow, can mix to yield a useful color wheel of secondary, etc. colors. However, the ability of lithography to duplicate the wide and subtle range of colors of many art works was limited by this palette, as well as by the method by which the colors were applied.
By contrast, modern Giclée printers use a much larger range of colors to produce a far brighter and more accurate color palette. Using archival inks and papers, the Giclée process has further increased the longevity of the artworks over any of the earlier methods. Further, the spurting, squirting action of the ink jets (as many as 4 million droplets per second) produces superior color saturation and more subtle tonal qualities than can be obtained with the other leading methods. Since Giclées are created from a high resolution, digitized image, the "master" image and its colors can be carefully and expertly fine tuned. Just as digital photography and computer-assisted photographic processing have revolutionized the field of photography, the digitized images on which the Giclée method depends have changed the whole complexion of fine art reproduction.
While most Giclee prints are applied to high-quality, heavy weight museum grade and fine art "archival" papers, the work can be accurately reproduced on artist canvas or a variety of other surfaces. Some artists embellish their Giclees, enhancing their beauty and value with the application of gold accents, for example. Of course, the main value enhancement is the artist's signature. You should also expect a signed Certificate of Authenticity for your Giclée.
Whatever you seek, a Giclee may be your next best opportunity to own a piece of art you just love.
This is a reprint of an article I wrote when I was exhibiting at the Cove Gallery in Laguna Beach, California. I hope it strikes a chord with you, readers. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.