Catalogue entry

P07720 [from] Seven Aquatints 1972 [P07717-P07723; complete]
Seven aquatints, six in range 11 5/8 × 11 3/4 – 24 × 24 (297 × 300–610 × 610) and P07723 19 1/2 (490) in diameter, on Rives B.F.K. paper approx. 23 × 23 (605 × 605), printed by Crown Point Press, Oakland,
California and published by Parasol Press, New York
P07719, P07721 and P07723 inscribed ‘Ryman 72’ b.r., P07718 inscribed ‘Ryman 72’ bottom centre, P07717 and P07720 inscribed ‘Ryman 72’ b.l., P07722 inscribed ‘Ryman 72’ top right; all inscribed ‘23/50’ and impressed with the printer's stamp
Purchased from Lisson Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Lit: Naomi Spector, ‘Robert Ryman: Suite of Seven Aquatints, 1972. Nine Unique Aquatints, 1972’, Art & Project, bulletin 70, Amsterdam 1973, n.p.

‘Seven aquatints’ is Ryman's first group of etchings. He has subsequently produced other aquatints both singly and in series. ‘Seven Aquatints’ is consistent with many of the ideas and practices which Ryman has explored in his painting, notably in its emphasis on the medium as the subject about which he has stated: ‘My aquatints are white not because I am interested in making white prints but because printing them in white is more to the point visually. If I printed in black, the printed areas would become shapes and the aquatint could not be seen as clearly’ (‘White in Art is White?’, Print Collector's Newsletter, VIII, March–April 1977, p.3). By employing a white ink on a white paper Ryman plays down the importance of the geometric shape, the square, which he has consistently chosen in his work because it is ‘the most perfect space... I don't have to get involved with spatial compositions, as with rectangles and circles or whatever’ (Phyllis Tuchman, ‘An Interview with Robert Ryman’, Artforum, IX, May 1971, p.46). ‘Seven Aquatints’ is unusual, however, because, although the printed motif is always square, in P 07723 a white square is printed on a circular sheet which is attached to a square backing sheet. All the other prints consist of white squares of various sizes printed on square white paper.

In all cases the ink is brighter than the paper but its strength is varied from print to print. This differentiation is enhanced by the different methods of aquatinting Ryman adopts. The distribution of rosin on the plates is achieved with a rosin box in some prints and by hand in others, giving rise to a smooth or rough texture respectively. In P07721 Ryman has used sugar lift. This print is closely related to the ‘Windsor’ series of paintings Ryman made from 1965–6.

The treatment of the square motifs varies in each print as does the placing of the signature and numbering which become compositional elements. In addition P07720 incorporates a blue line printed diagonally at the top of the sheet. According to Naomi Spector this is reminiscent of ‘Impex’, a painting of 1968, and of a silkscreen of 1969, Ryman's first edition of prints. The order of ‘Seven Aquatints’ is entirely flexible.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986