Patrick Caulfield

Water Jug


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Patrick Caulfield 1936–2005
Screenprint on paper
Image: 794 × 571 mm
Purchased 1999


Water Jug is a screenprint featuring a stylised representation of a jug set against a dark blue-grey background. The bottom section of the jug’s body, as well as the outline of its upper portion, neck and lip, are all depicted in black. The left side of the black rim is especially thick, possibly indicating a shadow or a broader section of the object. A white shape in the top-left may denote a handle, although this white section continues onto the body of the jug, potentially suggesting a patch of bright light or a part of the object’s surface decoration. At the top-right of the jug’s body is a curved, bright blue triangle that extends in a thin line up the jug’s neck to its lip. The rest of the vessel is represented using the same dark blue-grey that comprises the background of the print. The image is surrounded by a pale grey border, which is thicker along the bottom and top of the work. Inscribed in pencil in the bottom-right of this border is the artist’s signature and the numbers 73/80, indicating that the print is number seventy-three in an edition of eighty, and on the back of the print, also in pencil, is written the title of the work.

Water Jug was designed by the British artist Patrick Caulfield in London in 1981. As with all of his prints, Caulfield initially composed the work in the form of an acrylic painting. It was printed in 1982 at Kelpra Studio, a fine art print workshop in London, on white, heavy-weight, machine-woven paper using serigraph inks, which may have been oil-based. Colour was applied at a uniform thickness across the composition. The print was then published in 1982 by Waddington Graphics, London. The work is float-mounted on museum board using paper hinges, and has been framed for display by Tate.

The critic Mel Gooding has written that the ‘simple, schematic and direct’ style of Caulfield’s prints from the early 1980s represented a shift from the highly complex compositions in his prints and paintings of the mid- to late 1970s (such as Still Life Ingredients 1976, Estate of Patrick Caulfield, London; Caulfield and Gooding 1998, p.14). Water Jug is one of a group of four screenprints made by Caulfield in 1981–2, all of which depict jugs in the same stylised manner (see also Pink Jug 1981–2, Tate P78305; Brown Jug 1981–2, Tate P78307; and Pitcher 1981–2, Tate P78308). The work features an ambiguous arrangement of composition and colour that appears in many of the prints Caulfield made from 1974 onwards (see also Lung Ch’uan Ware and Black Lamp 1990, Tate P79194), the effect of which has been discussed by Gooding as follows:

colour bleeds from the surround into the image, a cubist-derived device that Caulfield has continued to use ... to demonstrate the fictitious nature of the printed image, and to show that a single undifferentiated colour may simultaneously serve both decorative and descriptive purposes, can at once magically define image and ground, create the illusion of both a form and of a circumambient fictive space, and assert the objective actuality of the printed plane.
(Mel Gooding, ‘Patrick Caulfield: The Complete Prints’, in Caulfield and Gooding 1998, p.13.)

In Water Jug, this uncertainty is exacerbated by the ambiguous use of black and white sections to suggest possible effects of the light, and by the way in which the main greyish-blue tone of the pitcher matches that of the background, causing these two elements to bleed into one another on either side of the thick black edge.

Caulfield made many prints from 1964 onwards, often collaborating with printers at Kelpra Studio. In 1998 he stated that because his painting process was very ‘slow’, generally resulting in only two or three works produced per year, printing became important for him because it enabled the speedy ‘multiplication’ and dissemination of many works (Caulfield in Caulfield and Robertson, ‘Patrick Caulfield: A Dialogue with Bryan Robertson’, in Hayward Gallery 1999, p.31). Despite this, he also stated in the same interview that ‘I don’t think of a print as very different to a painting, because I make a painting for each print ... I’m not really a printmaker at all. I provide an image and then it’s printed by professional printers’ (Caulfield in Caulfield and Robertson 1999, p.31).

Further reading
Patrick Caulfield and Mel Gooding, Patrick Caulfield: The Complete Prints, 1964–1998, London 1998, p.92, reproduced pp.63, 92.
Patrick Caulfield, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1999, p.137, reproduced p.135.
Clarrie Wallis, Patrick Caulfield, London 2013.

David Hodge
October 2015

Supported by Christie’s.

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Display caption

Caulfield's simplified, deliberately cartoon-like style makes no claims to a 'realistic' depiction of objects. Instead, through his work, Caulfied invites us to consider the nature of representation. The 'Jugs' have been radically reduced to a simple black outline, with planes of colour to represent light and shading, and yet they remain distinctly recognisable.

Gallery label, August 2004

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