Original Pro Hart Aquatint Etching Print titled Card Players, signed, image size 48x58cm at Etching House.
The edition is limited to 100 only
A trip to Broken Hill is almost incomplete without a visit to the Pro Hart Gallery. On display is a wide selection of Pro’s own paintings, but also hundreds of works by an impressive range of other artists including Arthur Boyd, John Constable, Claude Monet, and Albert Tucker. The paintings are arranged higgledy-piggledy and virtually cover the gallery’s walls. Pro has an interesting anecdote about most of the paintings on display. Pointing to ‘Bishop on a Buffalo’ by David Boyd, for example, Pro told me: ‘The buffalo’s the devil and he’s taking the old bishop for a ride … I think that’s what it means. David reckons it’s one of his best works. Yeah, he’s a great artist, a great painter.’
Most widely represented is the Australian artist Sir William Dobell. ‘I’ve probably got 300 Dobells counting drawings,’ said Pro. On the walls of the ‘Sir William Dobell Room’, located near the gallery’s entrance, are photographs of drawings from Dobell’s sketchbooks, while the sketchbooks themselves are displayed in glass cabinets underneath. The room also contains Dobell memorabilia including his tatty old carpet and his art smock decorated with cartoons by his artist friends. Pro’s quirky curatorship is evident everywhere. The ‘official’ gallery label for a collection of Dobell’s brushes, pallets and paints too generically announces: ‘This cabinet contains painting equipment.’ So to clarify things, written in black pen on white cardboard below it is: ‘Of Sir William Dobell.’
The gallery is also interesting because it is possible to discover things that perhaps motivated Pro’s work. Painting horses with little wheels on their legs is one of Pro’s distinctive touches. Where did this idea come from? The answer may well be found in a glass cabinet tucked away in the gallery, containing three old tin toy sulkies pulled by horses with wheels on their front legs, similar to those in Pro’s paintings.
Pro designed the gallery himself, doing ‘just a rough sketch’ of what he had in mind. The rambling ground floor is the largest of the three levels, while the first and second floors have a large square hole or atrium in the middle of them, so they resemble a pair of misshapen donuts. The gallery is far too small, although plans are afoot to enlarge the ground floor and to fill-in the atrium. However, it occurred to me that designing a new gallery and studios for Pro would make an interesting project for the 140 second-year architecture students at the University of Melbourne, were I teach.
I decided that a new Pro Hart Gallery should have 200 running meters of exhibition space. Also there should be a conservation workshop, a temporary storeroom for exhibits, offices for a curator and a business manager, a coffee shop, a gift shop, a seminar room, and utilities such as a cloakroom and public toilets. Likewise, Pro’s new studios should consist of a painting studio, a printmaking studio and a sculpture studio. In addition there should be a large secure storeroom for paintings and prints, living quarters for a visiting artist-in-residence, a chapel for weddings and funerals, a sculpture park, and a car park. I chose to put the ‘new’ gallery and studios on the bowl-shaped vacant block of land on the corner of Wyman and Bromide Streets, diagonally opposite Pro’s existing gallery and studio. Most of the architecture students’ designs reflected their own interpretations of Pro’s art and personality. Before I describe a very small sample of them, let me emphasize that this is only a student project!
Sian Murray designed a building ‘cut’ by several huge parallel walls that are orange to reflect the colour of Broken Hill’s soil, and wavy to echo the contours of the site. From the front, the building appears to consist of almost nothing but these walls, but they actually ‘hide’ a number of irregular shaped rooms that are plainly visible from the sides of the building. A tangled mass of metal rods and wires pierce the walls and the rooms, like chaotic spider webs. This aspect of Sian’s design was influenced by Pro’s crystalline, maze-like paintings of head frames – the wooden props that prevent a mineshaft from collapsing. The almost infinite depth of field of these stunning, almost ‘psychedelic’ paintings made them particularly appealing to the architecture students. Sian created one gallery for Pro’s paintings and a separate gallery for the other artists’ paintings in his collection, to reflect that Pro is somewhat of an ‘outsider’ in the art world. However, a permeable wall of rods and wires in Pro’s printmaking studio allows him to peep through the gaps into the other artists’ gallery.
Works on Paper
What is an Etching?
Unlike paintings or drawings, prints exist in multiple examples. They are created by drawing a composition not on paper but on another surface (often referred to as the Matrix) and transferring the composition to paper. This is done by placing a sheet of paper on the drawn surface and running it through a press, or, depending on the technique, by pressing the paper onto the surface by hand. Numerous “impressions” can be made by printing new pieces of paper in the same way. The total number of impressions an artist decides to make for any one image is called an edition. Each impression in an edition is signed and numbered by the artist. Each of various methods of printmaking yields a distinct appearance, and an artist will choose a technique in order to achieve a specific desired effect. Since some printing techniques are quite complicated, many artists use professional printers to create the final work.
Intaglio Printing. Intaglio comes from the Italian word intagliare, meaning “to incise.” In intaglio printing, an image is incised with a pointed tool or “bitten” with acid into a metal plate, usually copper or zinc. The plate is covered with ink, and then cleaned so that only the incised grooves contain ink. The plate and dampened paper are run through a press to create the print. Usually, the plate is smaller than the paper, so that the impression of the plate, or the plate mark, remains on the paper. When a limited edition of impressions has been printed, the plate is usually defaced with gouges or holes to ensure that it cannot be used again. The intaglio family of printmaking techniques includes engraving, dry point, mezzotint, etching, and aquatint.
Etching has been a favored technique for artists for centuries, thanks largely to the ease with which an etched image is created. An etching begins with a metal plate (usually copper) that has been coated with a waxy substance called a “ground.” The artist creates his or her composition by drawing through the ground to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, which “bites” or chemically dissolves the exposed lines. For printing, the ground is removed, ink is introduced into the incised lines, and the plate is wiped clean. The plate is covered with dampened paper and run through a press under great pressure in order to force the paper into the lines, resulting in the raised characteristic of etching.
Drypoint prints are created by scratching a drawing on the plate with a needle. The incised lines of a drypoint are shallower than those in an etching, and in this technique the burr is not scraped away before printing. The result is characterized by heavier, softer-looking lines than those in an engraving.
Aquatint is an etching process in which the artist is concerned with tone rather than line. For this technique, a plate is covered with particles of acid-resistant material such as resin and heated to make the particles stick. The treated plate is then placed in an acid bath, which bites into the copper that is exposed between grains of resin, yielding a composition marked by texture and tone.
Over a period of forty years Pro Hart has painted watercolors for his own enjoyment. Most of these watercolors are stored in albums in Pro Hart’s studio. It has been a long term desire of Pro Hart for the widest possible audience to enjoy his art. The Giclé digital printing technology offers Pro Hart the opportunity of developing his personal collection into graphic prints in strictly limited editions of one hundred and fifty copies.
What is a Giclé Print?
The word Giclé is a French word meaning ‘fine spray’, which is what a digital printer does as it prints this type of art. An original is produced and entered into a computer through a digital scan. The Giclé process then is digital printmaking with an iris printer that uses minute droplets of ink to create prints that cannot be duplicated by other printing techniques. Because there is no visible dot screen pattern, the resulting image has all of the subtle tonalities of the original art. This produces exceptional museum quality prints. The entire Giclé movement emerged in the 1990s and has allowed many artists to experiment with printmaking in ways that were not involved before. It permits an artist to make the artwork any size and to print on any substrate or type of paper or canvas in very small quantities at any one time. Giclé prints have a very impressive track record for exhibition at prestigious galleries and museums such as:
The Louvre museum in Paris
The British Museum
The Washington Post Collection
The New York Public Library
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art
The New York Metropolitan Museum
The National Art Museum
The San Francisco Museum of Art
To make a screen print, an image that has been cut out of a material such as paper or fabric is attached to a piece of tautly stretched mesh. Paint is then forced through the mesh or screen onto a sheet of paper below by means of a squeegee. The uncovered areas of the screen will, of course, allow the paint to pass through, while the areas covered by the compositional shapes will not. For works with more than one colour, a separate screen is required for each colour
Authenticating a Pro Hart Artwork
Pro Hart has been painting full time since 1958. Taking his inspiration from growing up and living in the mining town of Broken Hill, he has painted everything from landscapes and miners, to religious scenes of his interpretation, political events, to scenes from all of his various travels.
In recent years the secondary sales market has become a force in dealing in Pro Hart artworks and with painting retail prices rising approximately 30% in the last year, Pro Hart has become one of the most popular investment artists in Australia.
Whether or not you are buying a Pro Hart artwork for investment or just for viewing pleasure, it is important to know what you are buying is an authentic piece of artwork.
Every year consumers purchase artworks that are copies produced without the artists’ knowledge. Pro Hart Art Sales Pty Ltd has taken steps in recent years to secure Pro’s artworks from forgery and counterfeiting by applying the Pro Hart DNA Art Mark to all of the paintings that are offered for sale in the Broken Hill Gallery and all of its agents Australia wide.
The Pro Hart DNA Art Mark is a comprehensive system in which gene segments of Pro Hart’s own DNA is combined with special invisible optical indicators to form a DNA Matrix which is then applied to each and every painting. The optical ingredients are almost impossible to counterfeit and allows instant electronic verification of the presence and authenticity of the artwork.
Digital images are then taken, along with all the relevant details, including the location of the Pro Hart DNA Art Mark and microchip serial numbers are entered into a database, with Pro Hart Art Sales Pty Ltd and Brand Integrity International. This then allows a network of investigators with secure access to these databases to confirm authenticity anywhere in the world.
The best way to assure yourself that you are buying an authentic Pro Hart artwork is to only buy from a registered agent of Pro Hart. If you are buying on the secondary market you should only buy from a reputable auction house and insist on seeing certificates of authenticity and proof of the DNA Art Mark. Only Brand Integrity International Pty Ltd, Pro Hart Art Sales Pty Ltd and its registered agents are authorized to issue DNA Certificates of authenticity on behalf of Pro Hart.
For further information on DNA Art Mark technology please visit www.artmark.com.au or www.brandintegrity.com.au
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