ValueMyStuff sat down with our 18th & 19th century prints expert, Jasper Jennings, for a Q&A. Learn more about why Jasper continues to love prints and get insight into a specialist's valuation.
I am fascinated by prints as illuminating ‘primary sources’ for our social history. At the same time I appreciate their artistic and aesthetic qualities, and derive endless pleasure from the creative possibilities of printmaking, as explored by artists through the centuries.
Print has been called the democratic art. Prints are generally affordable, and I am glad that the market does not tolerate the exclusivity that is cultivated in other disciplines.
Do you have a favourite style or maker?
Most of the greatest print makers in history have not been British, but I do have a soft spot for the British School – the imagination of William Blake, the easy brilliance of Thomas Rowlandson, and William Hogarth who created a new visual language for the mid-18th century, the pictorial equivalent to its literature and theater.
I have learned to appreciate the subtleties of most of the different schools and techniques of printmaking, and to judge each and their prime exponents on their own merits. I think Honore Daumier was an absolute genius with the lithographic crayon and no-one has come close to matching Rembrandt’s depth of feeling for etching.
What are some of the most amazing prints that have come across your desk and
I still recall the pleasure I found in an exquisite etching of two foxhounds by George Stubbs, the master animal painter, when I was working for another dealer.
Why? Hard to put into words; a combination of the skilful blending of tone and line on the copper plate to produce both rich detail and a pleasing overall composition. All that as well as capturing something of the character of the dogs!
What would you love to see that you haven’t yet?
This changes week-to-week depending on what I’ve read or seen that’s inspired me. I’ve recently been learning more about the American Revolution and still haven’t seen an early impression of Paul Revere’s iconic satirical print of the 1770 Boston Massacre. It stoked anti-British feeling in New England with its graphic image of soldiers firing on a civilian crowd and incendiary text beneath.
What is your approach to a valuation?
I come at it almost from a buyer’s point of view, and tend to imagine what estimate would I expect a good provincial auction house – of the type I buy from – to put on the lot. I think that’s a fair approach to managing customer’s expectations.
You are considered a great expert, do you still have to conduct research or do you rely solely on experience in the field?
As with any antique or collectable I suppose, there is no substitute for looking at and handling thousands of old pieces of printed paper. If you have that experience to fall back on, you get a sense immediately if something doesn’t look ‘right’. But one’s practical knowledge must undoubtedly be complimented by constant reading of books, specialist and academic periodicals, catalogue raisonnes, exhibition catalogues etc. I often learn new things when I catalogue a new acquisition for stock - occasionally it leads to some genuinely original research which can even end up being cited by institutions like the British Museum!
What do you like about working with Value My Stuff? Do you find it different?
I think the fact that Patrick, the founder, comes from the antiques trade is important. He picks up very quickly how best to utilise the expertise available to him and he and his team make it very easy for me to work effectively, which of course is in the best interests of the customer.
Why would you recommend customers to have their stuff valued?
It saves the time, effort and expense of carting your (often framed) maps and prints down to the local saleroom, many of which now do not take on old prints in these days of rising minimum lot values. I happen to know the calibre of experts at VMS is high (if I say so myself!), I have come across one or two of them in the course of my work and they are at the top of their profession. If I think a print is worth selling to a specialist market, you’ll find out through VMS!