Q. What is the difference between a lithograph, color lithograph, screen print, serigraph and a gicleé? Which is most valuable?
A. Ok, this can get confusing but I will try to simplify this as best I can. A lithograph printing technique is based on the principle that oil and water do not mix. A picture is made on a stone or a piece of aluminum using an oil-based ink or crayon. Water is added to the places that aren’t covered with the oily substance. An oily ink is then applied to the whole surface area. It sticks only to the portions that have been covered with the oily chemical. The other portions, which were not created using oily ink or crayon, will repel the ink. A poster is a lithograph usually done on lower quality paper and in mass quantities. A color lithograph specifically refers to any lithograph in which there are more than two colors (other than black).
A screen print, also called a silkscreen or serigraph, is made using a raised image on a screen (originally made of silk, thus “silkscreen”) where the ink is applied and transferred to the paper. Think of a stencil application, where the ink can get through some areas but not others. The ink is forced through the screen. Most T-shirts are screen printed.
Gicleé (“zhee-clay”) is from the French word “gicler” meaning “to squirt”. In a gicleé, the print is produced on an inkjet printer (thus the “squirted” ink). Reproduction of fine art is done more precisely with higher resolution and wider color range than other methods listed above. Because of the higher resolution and overall quality, the gicleé tends to be more expensive but there are exceptions for all types of prints based on artist, rarity and condition.
If you have additional interest, websites such as www.Art.com have a good glossary of terms to help decipher this quickly changing art form.
Karen Waterman is an antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions your own “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter of email with a question, your give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos are encouraged) to email@example.com. Send snail mail to East Bay Newspapers, Att. Karen Waterman, P.O.Box 90, Bristol, RI 02809.