Brown Pot is a screenprint made at Advanced Graphics, a fine art print workshop in London. It was published by Advanced Graphics and Waddington Graphics, London in an edition of eighty with ten proofs; Tate’s copy is number forty-five in the edition. The print is signed by the artist and numbered below the lower right corner of the background set in a broad white margin.
Brown Pot depicts a large earthenware jar in front of a turquoise circle against a background of the same brown as the pot. Strong black shadows are cast by the pot and yellow highlights on the inside rim and one side suggest a light source falling from the top right of the image. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, almost all of Caulfield’s prints featured a single piece of pottery, either juxtaposed with a lamp or strongly lit from the top right. Brown Pot shares the same interest in the depiction of a solid object using areas of flat colour, and a preoccupation with the representation of light and shadow.
Speaking to Marco Livingstone in the early 1980s the artist explained: ‘Once I got on to shadows, I really went to town; they became compositional elements, in fact more than the objects that the shadows came from. They’re all silhouettes. You accept them as shadows, but they’re not at all as shadows would be.’ (Quoted in Livingstone, p.86, note 50.) He continued: ‘I’m not actually painting from observation of light, I’m making up an idea of how light could appear to be. The angles of light in naturalistic terms could be totally wrong, but they either help the composition of the picture or they help the feeling of light more strongly.’ (Quoted in Livingstone, p.95.)
The colour scheme and imagery in Brown Pot provided Caulfield with the inspiration for a mosaic he was commissioned to make for the Arco di Travertino underground station in Rome, unveiled in the autumn of 2001 (reproduced Livingstone p.268). In the mosaic, Caulfield used exactly the same four colours of brown, turquoise, black and yellow, repeating the motif of the pot around the curved wall of the station. Walking along next to the wall, the viewer might notice that the shadows and highlights move slightly each time the pot is repeated, suggesting a slightly different relationship to the invisible light source each time. This would not be the only time Caulfield would use one of his own prints as the inspiration for an architectural commission; in 2004 he completed a redesign of the Members’ Room at the Royal Academy of Art, London with a large carpet showing a duck on water, taken from another print he made in 1994, Duck (P79199).
Patrick Caulfield made his first print, Ruins (P04076), in 1964 at Kelpra Studio, the fine art print workshop established by master printer Chris Prater in the late 1950s. Having chosen the medium of screenprinting for its ability to create immaculately flat areas of bright, saturated colour, Caulfield continued to collaborate with Prater and, from the late 1960s, with Chris Betambeau and later Bob Saich at Advanced Graphics. He produced prints regularly throughout his career, until 1999 when he made Les Demoiselles d’Avignon vues de Derrière (P78309), an homage to Pablo Picasso’s great painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907, collection Museum of Modern Art, New York). For Caulfield, printmaking was a parallel activity to his painting, allowing him to explore the same subject matter and artistic concerns:
Because I’m such a slow producer of paintings, I regard printmaking as a way of extending the kind of imagery that concerns me, because of its multiplication in editions. I don’t think of a print as very different to a painting, because I make a painting for each print in more or less detail. I’m not really a printmaker at all. I provide an image and then it’s printed by professional printers. It’s a relief to see this work under way.
(Quoted in Livingstone, p.31.)
Marco Livingstone, Patrick Caulfield: Paintings, London 2005.
Richard Riley, ‘Chronology’ in Marco Livingstone, Patrick Caulfield: Paintings, London 2005, pp.268–9.
Mel Gooding, Patrick Caulfield: The Complete Prints 1964–1999, Alan Cristea Gallery, London 1999, reproduced no.85.