Sunday, 8 November 2015

If illustration is meant to be reproduced then is the reproduction the Illustration?

While reading Michael Lobel's book John Sloan: Drawing on Illustration I came across an interesting statement when the author was considering what Illustration was and is so that he can more clearly interpret the work of John Sloan. He talks about the a series of definitions that classify illustration and states that they are "images meant to be reproduced" and that "Illustrators recognize that the images they create are meant to be viewed not in the original but as reproductions."

This definition he draws from the Joseph Pennell and his book published in 1896 The Illustration of Books, a publication that began the redefining of what Illustration was, and one that Lobel uses as a way of identify the key features of illustration as it emerged in the mid to late nineteeth century, and help frame the context of the book around John Sloan. These may not even be his own opinions but pose an interesting question that may drive to the root of a definition of Illustration and potentially a clearer understanding of where my work sits.

If illustration is meant to be reproduced then is the reproduction the Illustration? And does the original remain an independent piece of artwork? If the reproduction is a mirror of the original art work is the physical nature of this original the aspect that makes it an artwork rather than an illustration? Could the individual identity of something make it understandably unique and therefore more clearly defined? Does this controlled process of reproduction result in an illustration?

The format of the illustration will also vary dramatically. It could be a framed print or in a newspaper, poster or made into a tattoo. Does each style have its own value? Is a framed print more valuable than a illustration in a newspaper? The mass media will produce thousands of newspapers and copies of that image where as a print will be of a limited run. Is the value of the print higher, not just it's monetary value but it's currency increased, by it being closer to the artist? A print seeming as if it has been touched by the artist themselves and that in the newspaper further from the origin.

This also makes the a clear statement about the presence of the artist. By possessing a framed printed potentially the owner has something of the artist. The original work is also an individual object where as a reproduction in a book is framed with the context of the narrative. It is part of another piece of work rather and potentially the identity of the original artist is lost.

M. Lobel, John Sloan: Drawing on Illustration (2014) USA, Yale

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