Precious prints on display

[Howard Hodgkin, For Jack, 2005]

Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery is delving into its own rich collection for a new exhibition opening early next month.

From Hogarth to Hodgkin: Our Best Prints will run from the 5th of March until May 4th and will showcase the best of the Gallery’s diverse print collection, with works on display spanning 700 years.

In today’s image-saturated world, it is hard to appreciate how precious prints would have seemed in the past. Before industrial techniques came along in the 19th century, artists could only make prints in limited quantities. Yet the process enabled them to reach a wider audience than with paintings. Connoisseurs collected prints with enthusiasm bordering on mania.

From Hogarth to Hodgkin will offer visitors a walk through the history of printmaking, starting with old masters such as Cranach and Durer and bringing the story right up to the present day with works by Grayson Perry, Cornelia Parker and Paula Rego.

Alongside the artworks, there will be a display showing how printing techniques have developed and improved over the last five centuries and explaining these techniques – from woodcut to mezzotint, etching to screen printing. Tools of the trade will also be on show including lithographic stones, etched copper plates and etching tools.

Councillor Dine Romero, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Communities and Culture at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “With subjects ranging from landscape to satire, portraiture to views of Georgian Bath, there will be something to appeal to all art lovers. Admission is free for local residents – visit the Gallery website for more information and to book a free ticket.”

Among the many highlights of the exhibition are:

St Eustace by Albrecht Durer, around 1501

Durer was a pioneer of printmaking. He was the first artist to really value printmaking as an artform and relished the challenge of making complex images using new techniques.

Eustace was a Roman general who converted to Christianity after encountering a stag with a crucifix between his antlers.

Simon, Lord Lovat by William Hogarth, 1747

Lord Lovat was executed for treason in 1747, the last man in Britain to be publicly beheaded. He was a notorious Jacobite, imprisoned after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s 1745 uprising.

Hogarth shows Lovat just before his execution, counting on his fingers the number of Scottish clans he had recruited to the cause.

This print was a great commercial success. Sales were so high for a few weeks after it was published that Hogarth earned £12 a day.

The Abbey Church at Bath by Thomas Malton, around 1784

Although parts of this picture are painted in watercolour – the sky and the foreground – other parts are printed.

It is a hybrid work. A print has been painted to create what looks like a unique image. It is only if you look very closely that the print underneath can be seen.

Poor Old Tom Thumb by Thomas Barker, 1790

Barker was one of the first British artists to use Lithography as a print medium.

This picture uses stipple engraving, where a pattern of dots is engraved on the printing plate to create tonal variations.

The portrait shows a well-known local figure, Richard Brent. Barker loved painting these “rustic” figures: idealised, romanticised poor people.

Africa Footprints by Richard Long, 1986

Long is primarily a sculptor who works with natural materials such as stone and mud from the River Avon.

The composition of this print, a map of Africa, is formed from a series of footprints made by the artist.

For Jack by Howard Hodgkin, 2005

This work is titled in tribute to the artist’s productive working relationship with master printmaker Jack Shirreff. Hodgkin studied at Bath Academy of Art, where he later became a tutor. Here he met fellow teacher Shirreff, who ran the 107 Workshop in Shaw, Wiltshire.

Hodgkin and Shirreff developed a close creative partnership in which Hodgkin would make prints and Shirreff would hand colour them to his instructions. This made each and every Hodgkin print unique.

For more information and to book exhibition tickets, please visit


Notes to Editors

For more information or images, please contact Hannah Tunstall, Heritage Publicity Officer, on  

Bath and North East Somerset residents

Admission to the Victoria Art Gallery is free for residents of Bath and North East Somerset with a Discovery Card, or with photo ID (passport/driver’s licence) together with:

•           Council tax bill (preferred)

•           Latest utility bill showing your current address

•           Bank/mobile phone statement

For more information, visit