Coach Lamp is a screenprint made at the Printmaking Workshop of the Royal College of Art, London. It was published by Waddington Graphics in an edition of fifty with fifteen proofs; Tate’s copy is number two 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.
Coach Lamp depicts a rectangular coach lantern set on an ornamental iron bracket against a cream-coloured wall. Angular grey shadows surround the entire lantern, emphasising its pointed shape. The glass of the lantern is represented as flat pale blue and white rectangles, suggesting that the lamp is lit. The shadows, which appear to be cast both by the lamp itself and by another external light source, are not realistically depicted and are as much a feature of the composition as the lamp itself. This preoccupation with the depiction of light and shadow, and the lamps itself from which they are cast, characterised Caulfield’s prints of the 1980s and 1990s. 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.)
Lamps figure consistently throughout Caulfield’s work, both in his paintings and prints. As early as 1971 he had made a series of prints showing a hanging lampshade in front of a window at different times of day, and therefore in different lights (P04093–P04096). The particular coach lantern depicted in Coach Lamp is the subject of another print made in 1994, Wall Lamp (P79201). It also features in a painting made in the same year, Wall Light (reproduced in Livingstone p.217), which shows exactly the same configuration of shadows as the print. In the painting, Caulfield also employed a technique which he favoured in a number of his works from the mid 1980s onwards, of using textural effects in his application of the paint, creating a stucco-like effect in his depiction of the exterior wall on which the lamp is mounted. Caulfield had used similar effects a number of years previously in another painting of a coach lamp, this time oval-shaped, entitled Patio 1988 (reproduced in Livingstone p.155).
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.
Mel Gooding, Patrick Caulfield: The Complete Prints 1964-1999, Alan Cristea Gallery, London 1999, reproduced no.87.