Owen Miller On Sale
1950s Modern More Prints
Owen Miller for sale on 1stDibs
Born in Auckland and educated at Wellington College, Owen Miller worked as an artist in New Zealand, working with the Māori people and as an illustrator for a newspaper in Wellington. Finding working life difficult in New Zealand during the depression, he signed on as a deckhand working his passage to the UK. Arriving at the Port of London with £5 to his name, Miller’s first job was an illustrator for J. Lyons & Co., the famous Corner House company. His greatest work there was to decorate the directors’ dining room as an aircraft interior. Following the outbreak of the War, Miller began to work for the Ministry of Aircraft Production in late 1942. When Lord Beaverbrook commenced his term as Minister of Aircraft Production in May 1940, it was an industry beset with problems. Aircraft parts were produced in sufficient numbers, but assembly into flyable aircraft proved more challenging, the Castle Bromwich Spitfire factory had not produced a single completed aircraft by this point. Moreover, the RAF central depots had large supplies of aircraft that had not been issued to squadrons. Once this was all brought under Beaverbrook’s control, aircraft production increased rapidly. During the Battle of Britain, the British production of fighter aircraft was two-and-a-half times that of Germany. Britain had 644 operable fighters at the start of July 1940 when the Battle of Britain began against the German 725. By the end of October 1940, when the German offensive finished, British fighter aircraft had despite significant losses increased to 732 while the Germans were left with just 275. To achieve this great productivity increase, the Ministry was run on informal grounds, few notes were kept, staff members had few formal roles. Essential to the success were motivational posters in the aircraft factories, such as those produced by Miller for the Bayly-Souster commercial art studio in Fleet Street in London for whom he worked. Life as an artist dreaming up fantasy motivational posters could have hidden risks. One poster Miller produced was a stylized airplane without a propeller. Needless to say, the jet engine was Top Secret at that time and he was duly summoned to explain what he knew of it, of course, the answer was nothing. Following the war, he worked for National Savings, while also selling his art both sculpture and paintings.
A Close Look at modern Art
The first decades of the 20th century were a period of artistic upheaval, with modern art movements including Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism and Dadaism questioning centuries of traditional views of what art should be. Using abstraction, experimental forms and interdisciplinary techniques, painters, sculptors, photographers, printmakers and performance artists all pushed the boundaries of creative expression.
Major exhibitions, like the 1913 Armory Show in New York City — also known as the “International Exhibition of Modern Art,” in which works like the radically angular Nude Descending a Staircase by Marcel Duchamp caused a sensation — challenged the perspective of viewers and critics and heralded the arrival of modern art in the United States. But the movement’s revolutionary spirit took shape in the 19th century.
The Industrial Revolution, which ushered in new technology and cultural conditions across the world, transformed art from something mostly commissioned by the wealthy or the church to work that responded to personal experiences. The Impressionist style emerged in 1860s France with artists like Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas quickly painting works that captured moments of light and urban life. Around the same time in England, the Pre-Raphaelites, like Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, borrowed from late medieval and early Renaissance art to imbue their art with symbolism and modern ideas of beauty.
Emerging from this disruption of the artistic status quo, modern art went further in rejecting conventions and embracing innovation. The bold legacy of leading modern artists Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Piet Mondrian and many others continues to inform visual culture today.
Finding the Right prints-works-on-paper for You
Decorating with fine art prints — whether they’re figurative prints, abstract prints or another variety — has always been a practical way of bringing a space to life as well as bringing works by an artist you love into your home.
Pursued in the 1960s and ’70s, largely by Pop artists drawn to its associations with mass production, advertising, packaging and seriality, as well as those challenging the primacy of the Abstract Expressionist brushstroke, printmaking was embraced in the 1980s by painters and conceptual artists ranging from David Salle and Elizabeth Murray to Adrian Piper and Sherrie Levine.
Printmaking is the transfer of an image from one surface to another. An artist takes a material like stone, metal, wood or wax, carves, incises, draws or otherwise marks it with an image, inks or paints it and then transfers the image to a piece of paper or other material.
Fine art prints are frequently confused with their more commercial counterparts. After all, our closest connection to the printed image is through mass-produced newspapers, magazines and books, and many people don’t realize that even though prints are editions, they start with an original image created by an artist with the intent of reproducing it in a small batch. Fine art prints are created in strictly limited editions — 20 or 30 or maybe 50 — and are always based on an image created specifically to be made into an edition.
Many people think of revered Dutch artist Rembrandt as a painter but may not know that he was a printmaker as well. His prints have been preserved in time along with the work of other celebrated printmakers such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol. These fine art prints are still highly sought after by collectors.
“It’s another tool in the artist’s toolbox, just like painting or sculpture or anything else that an artist uses in the service of mark making or expressing him- or herself,” says International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) vice president Betsy Senior, of New York’s Betsy Senior Fine Art, Inc.
Because artist’s editions tend to be more affordable and available than his or her unique works, they’re more accessible and can be a great opportunity to bring a variety of colors, textures and shapes into a space.
For tight corners, select small fine art prints as opposed to the oversized bold piece you’ll hang as a focal point in the dining area. But be careful not to choose something that is too big for your space. And feel free to lean into it if need be — not every work needs picture-hanging hooks. Leaning a larger fine art print against the wall behind a bookcase can add a stylish installation-type dynamic to your living room. (Read more about how to arrange wall art here.)
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