I was recently reflecting upon some of the incidents that led me to pursue printmaking. One such experience occurred during my Masters course in Modern and Contemporary Art when we were invited to visit the home of print dealer Frederick Mulder. We arrived at his gorgeous 4 storey Victorian home in North London’s Belsize park, which he had purchased decades prior for a moderate sum. He walked us through the eclectic spaces, light flooding through large French doors that revealed a lush garden out back, walls adorned with original Picasso linocuts. Mulder is one of the world’s foremost dealers of Picasso prints and yet his demeanour is that of a modest country boy. Born to a poor family in rural Canada, he moved to the UK in the 1960s to pursue a PhD in Philosophy. In the meanwhile he developed a keen interest in art and began to collect original prints because of their relative affordability. His collection grew steadily until he became a major dealer of the work of Modern masters. Today his client list includes MoMA and the British Museum in addition to his extensive directory of private clients.
Home in Belsize Park
But for Mulder, personal wealth is a secondary focus. He is a philanthropist, and has donated millions of earnings from the sale of works by not only Picasso but also renowned artists like Matisse and Munch to help fund environmental and social causes. Frederick’s warmth and generosity felt like a humble sanctuary in the often elitist professional art world.
For me this amicable temperament is reflected back in the prints themselves. Limited edition prints provide a way for people of a variety of means to collect art, which is why Mulder chose to do so in the first place. Beyond artistic skill there is great craftsmanship and technical mastery involved, which allies it closely with the realm of craft. As such printmakers are artists but also artisans, dedicated to continuing the traditional methods of makers of centuries past. In an art world that often seems ostentatious, to me printmaking feels honest and authentic. So when I finally determined that my desire for calm and ease didn’t quite mesh with the extravagance and competition fuelled anxiety of high end gallery work, printmaking was a welcome calling.