Vessel is a screenprint made at Kelpra Studio, a fine art print workshop in London. It was published in an edition of thirty-five with fifteen proofs by Waddington Graphics, London; Tate’s copy is number thirty-four in the edition. The print is signed by the artist and editioned below the lower right corner of the background set in a broad white margin. The artist has inscribed the title in the lower right corner. Vessel is the only print Caulfield made between the portfolio Wall Plates 1987 (P79185–P79188) and the White Ware Prints of 1990 (P79190–P79198).
Like Large Jug 1983 (P79184), Vessel depicts a large jug using the simplest of graphic means. The jug is shown in silhouette, against a monochrome, dark blue ground. An area of white highlight indicates both the space demarcated by the jug’s handle and the play of light on its surface. However, whereas in Large Jug Caulfield used his characteristic thick black outline simply to delineate the form of the jug, here he continued the black over its whole surface, creating the silhouette effect. The black shadow cast by the pot is rendered as a pointed shape that echoes the form of the highlight near the handle and blends into the body of the pot itself, thus counteracting any suggestion of three-dimensionality.
The use of black outlines to describe form against an unmodulated monochrome background was characteristic of Caulfield’s work of the 1960s. After the profusion of imagery which typified his work of the 1970s, he returned in the 1980s to the more economical, reduced manner demonstrated in this print. In 1983 he stopped using the outlines both in his paintings and his prints, choosing instead to use areas of entirely flat colour. He continued to use flat areas of black, particularly in his prints, to create a dynamic interplay of light and shadow and a play on the relationship between two and three-dimensions. Mel Gooding, writing in the catalogue raisonné of Caulfield’s prints published by the Alan Cristea Gallery in 1999, described his prints depicting pots as ‘beauties of graphic economy’ (Gooding, p.14).
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.
Mel Gooding, Patrick Caulfield: The Complete Prints 1964–1999, Alan Cristea Gallery, London 1999, reproduced no.69.