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Best ever Norman Lindsay art print re-discovered by printer’s grandson and great-grandson
By Andy McCourt 

Unique 1930s art reproduction process developed in Sydney by Hackett Studios is touched by two generations at the Norman Lindsay Gallery.

Garth Hackett, Sales and Marketing Director of Sydney’s Offset Alpine Printing (part of the IPMG group), and his retired father Ron – former Managing Director of Offset Alpine - made an important trip from Sydney to Springwood at the base of the Blue Mountains last Saturday, to the National Trust-owned Norman Lindsay Museum and Gallery.

 garthron_hackett_doreen.jpg

 Garth and Ron Hackett cradle their forbear’s masterwork, courtesy of the Norman Lindsay Gallery, Springwood, NSW

They were there to meet a lady named “Doreen” – not in the flesh but as a limited-edition Norman Lindsay print from 1932, that used an incredible eighteen separate colour plates and a patented reproduction process known as the “Hackett Colour Process for Printing and Reproducing Fine Arts.” The inventor was Garth’s great-grandfather and Ron’s grandfather, William Hackett.

Alongside the Lithographic print and progressive colour proofs was a signed letter from Lindsay himself describing the result thus: “I have never seen better colour reproduction and consider superior to the best work done by English and American firms.” Lindsay felt that Hackett’s process reproduced an exact facsimile of his original in both colour and texture.

The significance of the “Doreen” proof collection was discovered in the archive section by the National Trust’s volunteer and Print Specialist Colleen Crockett who contacted well-known industry savant James Cryer to find out more about the process. Cryer, whose own industry ancestry goes back over 100 years, made the connection with Garth Hackett and on a sweltering Sydney day, the discovery party traveled up to Springwood to see for the first time their forbear’s masterwork. An astonishing coincidence is that WJ Cryer & Co, printers of Dulwich Hill, once sub-let part of their premises to the fledgling Offset Alpine – Ron Hackett, Bob Pryke and John Raye – in the 1960s. Forty years later, these print dynasties were brought together by chance, and a great lithographic art print.

Forget CMYK, Hackett used eighteen colours, drawn with Lithographic crayons, with names like “Blue Muddy Black” and “Purple-Grey.” Each plate was worked on by hand using a reduction method know as the Van Dyke process, normally associated with brownish art prints after the tones favoured by the Flemish master Van Dyke. However, the adaptation for full-spectrum faithful reproduction of Fine Art was Hackett’s own and involved a ‘scratch key’ used as the positional master for each reduced colour. Registering 18 plates must have been a task in itself! It was an entirely analogue Photo-chemical process using forgotten ‘soups’ of Potassium Ferricyanide, Sodium Thiosulphate and so on.

This remarkable Lithograph is on permanent loan to the National Trust by the Pryke family of Hackett & Pryke printing fame and is one of a series of four limited edition Norman Lindsay prints done at the time.

In this era of digital fine art reproduction using inkjet and computerised lithography, it is worth pondering the superhuman graphic arts effort to achieve such acknowledged excellence in reproduction. As James Cryer notes: “After forty years, fate has brought two pioneering ‘print families’ together again – and all because of a beautiful barely-clad lady named Doreen; and a master 1930s craftsman named William Hackett.”

It is rare that Lindsay’s artworks were named after one of his models. Doreen Hubble must have been special to Lindsay for him to afford her this honour. But what of the original watercolour of “Doreen”? Its whereabouts are unknown and the Norman Lindsay Gallery would love to acquire it. If you have any information on “Doreen”, let James Cryer know and he will make sure the right people at the National Trust are informed. james@jdaprintrecruit.com.au


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