Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research
  The British Channel Seen from the Dorsetshire Cliffs (detail) 1871

Artist Richard Hamilton

Typo/ Topography of Marcel Duchamps Large Glass

Collaborators: Richard Hamilton, Rod Hamilton, Prof Steve Hoskins &Paul Laidler
Date: 2002


The production of a 90inch by 120inch print (the full print being made up of two halves -each 60 inches by 90inches). The production and editioning of this print offered a number of challenges in relation to the CFPR’s focus on the methodological development of inkjet printing for artists.

One significant factor was its size; both virtually as a file; and physically as a print. The other was located in the nature of its construction, which, in relation to other fine art productions encountered was at variance in that it was a vector rather than the usual raster based image. This factor had already posed problems for a number of digital editioning studios prior to the artist seeking assistance from the CFPR. However, it was felt that the centres 60inch vector compatible printer may hold the key to the successful production of the print -which was to represent an important culmination of the artist Richard Hamilton’s work in translating, interpreting and reconstructing aspects of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass. Nevertheless, apart from the physical size of the work, the handling of such a complex vector file required the innovative development of a relatively new approach to digital printing for artists.

British artist Richard Hamilton has had long association with the use of new technologies. In 1971 he employed an early digital CAD system to create the drawings for his print series ‘Five Tyres remoulded.’ His first foray into the all digital approach to print however, was documented in 1978 in the television programme QED where, through the use of a Quantel Paintbox he created an image that was made into a large edition of laser prints. Since then, his digital print output has included some of the first Iris Prints and ink Jet prints to be produced as artists prints.

During 2004, Hamilton created an image that superimposed his 1960 typographical translation of Duchamp’s notes of Duchamps Green Box (the green book) over a 1:1 topographical map of his Large glass. “The Typo Typography of Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass” was created with the assistance of Hamilton’s son Rod, using Adobe Illustrator software - a vector based programme.

This work had taken approximately six months to create with the image file consisting of several thousand layers. In his 2006 catalogue ‘Painting by numbers’ Hamilton explains in relation to his use of vector graphics -“Most important is that vector graphics are not restricted in their resolution however, large or small the scale of the output the file remains a modest fixed size. Before a vector file can be printed it must be translated into a bitmap by RIP translation software”. He also states “Layering is a standard method of working now that massive amounts of memory and the power and speed of processors make this possible”.

The initial logistical problem posed in printing the file was that the image needed to match the same dimensions as the original two piece construction of Duchamp’s Large Glass which was 60 inches by 90 inches. This required inkjet printer capable of creating an image of a suitably high resolution that was at least 60 inches across. It also needed to accommodate pigmented inks and be able to handle the Postscript 2 files necessary to translate the vector imagery into bitmap.

Richard Hamilton approached the CFPR after two previous unsuccessful attempts to print the image at other studios. The CFPR had been recommended to him as because facilities existed to write a custom profile for a specific image and artists paper, owned a HP5000ps with a pigmented ink set and had experience of printing for artists.

The initial challenge in printing this work was how to retain all the correct colour values in each of the separate elements of the vector file and create a paper print profile for the complete image. A profile was written for Somerset Enhanced radiant white velvet paper and initial proofs were created, adjustments were then made to the profile and globally to the whole image until the artist was satisfied that the colour was close to the intention for the print. However if a generic profile was created then parts of the image, in particular areas rendered in tones of black and grey with no other colour and areas of a specific rust red did not render accurately. The generic profile was not good at rendering very light toned background colour in large flat areas at the same time as rendering large areas of bright solid or strong neutral tone.

The next step was to separate and ungroup the layers and groups pertaining to the areas needing adjustment and to make alterations iteratively to each of the individual areas in need of colour correction. The most difficult part was the area of black and grey neutral tones with no other colour, a decision had to be taken to print the entire image as a CMYK file (contrary to current practise of printing most images from an RGB file as a preference) in order to render these neutral tones with undercolour removal turned on. Once each set of groups and layers had been colour corrected individually, and proofed for individual colour and their relation to the global profile. The image could then be proofed again globally and the artist could check the individual and global changes before the image was printed in an edition of 5 prints, the final image measuring just under 8 feet by 10 feet.

Edition Information

Medium: Pigmented Inkjet Print
Substrate: Somerset Velvet Enhanced
Substrate dimensions: Width 107cm x Height 150 cm
Image dimensions: Width 84 cm x Height134 cm
Edition size: 5