Two Whiting is a large screenprint made at Advanced Graphics, a fine art print workshop in London. It forms part of the portfolio entitled 14 BIG Prints, published by the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in London in an edition of one hundred plus fifteen proofs; Tate’s copy is the fifth in the edition. It is signed by the artist with the edition number inscribed in the front lower right corner of the sheet. At over a metre across, Two Whiting was Caulfield’s largest print to date. At the time of the publication of 14 BIG Prints, a number of contemporary artists had been experimenting with the medium of screenprinting; this portfolio, as its title suggests, was one of the first to exploit the medium’s ability to create prints on a larger scale. Some of the other artists included in the portfolio were Peter Blake (born 1932), Bernard Cohen (born 1933), Robyn Denny (born 1930), John Hoyland (born 1934) and Eduardo Paolozzi (1924–2005).
Some time later, Peter Blake suggested to Bernard Jacobson that, as a riposte to 14 BIG Prints, he might invite artists to make prints on a very small scale; thus it was that in 1974 the Bernard Jacobson Gallery published Eighteen Small Prints, a portfolio of postcard sized screenprints. Patrick Caulfield contributed Night Sky (P79182) to this second portfolio.
Two Whiting depicts the two fish of its title lying on an oval plate on top of a rectangular tablemat, which in turn rests on a small table partially covered by a white tablecloth. A knife and what appear to be two lemons, rendered in a non-naturalistic blue colour, rest next to the plate. The simple, almost child-like, forms of the fish and the stark cloth with its crisp corners contrast with the curved, decorative edges of the table top. The different elements of the composition are rendered in areas of flat colour with bold black outlines, characteristic of the artist’s production at the time this print was made.
The relatively unusual oval format of Two Whiting recalls the still life paintings of Cubism, while the subject matter is particularly reminiscent of the work of Georges Braque (1882–1963), for example Black Fish (1942) in the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Braque’s painting shows two stylised black fish, lying on an oval plate on a table within an interior setting; to one side, two fruits rest on a crumpled cloth. Many years later, in one of his last prints Two Fish on a Plate 1999 (P79204), Caulfield would return to this most enduring of subject matters.
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 (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, as he explained:
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, p.135, reproduced p.132, no.15.
Mel Gooding, Patrick Caulfield: The Complete Prints 1964–1999, London 1999, reproduced no.24.