Murphy Bernard Loates Audubon Editions
|By Terry Wright|
M. Bernard Loates is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in wildlife art publishing today, despite his incredible talents as an artist of nature and printer par excellence.
Bernard’s twin brother, Glen Loates, is internationally known as a premier wildlife artist of our time, but Bernard is also a deeply talented artist with a flair for portraying nature.
Once, he proceeded to publish limited edition prints of his acrylic painting ‘North Shore – Lake Superior, Snowy Owl’ under the pseudonym of Daniel Hawkewood. At the final moment he chose to scrap the project. “The work of Daniel Hawkewood has never been published in print form and his originals have had no public showings.”(1)
Figure 1. “North Shore – Lake Superior, Snowy Owl”, Daniel Hawkewood.
Despite his profuse artistic talents, Bernard chose to focus and showcase his efforts in the publishing/printing arena, supporting and promoting the artistry of brother Glen Loates, through publication of his works. In the 1960’s Bernard’s own printing business, ‘Nature Impressions’ issued open and limited editions of Glen’s work. Bernard’s 1975 limited edition publication of “The Art of Glen Loates” was hailed as the finest book ever produced in Canada, and its value has skyrocketed as a collectible volume.(2)
Now, “….there is a continuing irony to the story of M. Bernard Loates. Perhaps his greatest acclaim will not come from his work as a fine artist; nor, for that matter from his expertise in the production of graphics. It will arise from his recreation of John James Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’, an endeavor requiring every talent at his command.”(3)
Beginning in 1987, Bernard Loates began publishing a new double-elephant folio of John James Audubon’s ‘Birds of America’. In 1987 he produced the ‘Introductory Edition’ featuring Audubon’s Key West Quail Dove, Blue Winged Warbler, Little Blue Heron, Sandhill Crane and Great Egret. The original Havell engravings as well as real animal specimens were used to create these prints to ensure accuracy of coloration. The lithography screens used to make these prints were so fine, the usual offset pattern of lithography dots is not apparent in these images under normal magnification. Paper used for this effort was very heavy 100lb 100% cotton rag acid-free archival stock custom made by Manadnock Paper Mills, New Hampshire. It was watermarked “Bernard Loates Stallion Vellum”. The prints were issued with raised ‘Chop Marks’ using stylized symbols for the publisher Tryon Mint, initials ‘JJA’ for John James Audubon, and a Stylized Heart symbol. The edition was limited to 1000 sets and each print bears a penciled serial number adjacent to the chop marks in the lower left of the print.
Figure 2. Chop Marks from Loates Introductory Edition, 1987-8.
Other marginalia include the print title at bottom-center, the artist’s penciled signature in the lower right corner and another raised chop mark, usually of a bird, in the lower right corner of each image. Each print also bears a pseudo plate mark.
Figure 3. M. Bernard Loates signature and chop mark.
The painstaking care taken to make these prints is only hinted at by the fact that each print was produced with 30-60 passes through the single-color presses. Inspection with a loupe or magnifying glass shows remarkably sharp detail and continuous toning, a direct result of the ultra-fine screens used in the lithography printing process. The typical offset lithography ‘dot matrix pattern’ is visible only at much higher magnification.
In 1998-9, Loates issued the ‘Tribute 1’ edition of his Birds of America reproductions. This edition comprised 5 more prints on watermarked stock. Also in 1999, ‘Tribute 2’ was published with a further 6 Audubon images. Tribute 1 and Tribute 2 images are substantially similar to Introductory Edition images, with one notable exception. For these editions, Loates modified the chop marks in the lower left of the print, dropping the Audubon initials ‘JJA’ in favor of his own stylized ‘BL’ monogram.
Following the first three editions, Loates continued to produce Audubon images. In addition to the first sixteen images, the author has been able to identify nineteen later edition Loates/Audubon prints. These later prints are on similar, but unwatermarked, 100lb stock. In other respects they show the same characteristics of the early Loates prints. The marginalia and chop marks are in the same locations as in earlier editions. Most images, the Great Blue Heron excepted, bear a Loates Copyright of 1987 or 1988 in the lower right corner of the print. See Table 1, below for a listing of known prints and their characteristics.
Figure 4. Second set of Loates chop marks sans ‘JJA’ initials and with ‘BL’ monogram.
Table 1. Known M. Bernard Loates DEF Audubon Images with Characteristics
Table Notes: IE=Introductory Edition, T1=Tribute 1 Edition, T2=Tribute 2 Edition, T+= post Tribute images. Plate numbers are those that correspond to Audubon’s (Havell) DEF Birds of America. Sources: * = listed for sale at Art.com; # = described or for sale at INTCA.com. All others from the author’s personal collection.
In evaluating these prints, there seem to be two conflicting schools of thought. First, there are those who recognize the talent and artistry, the fine workmanship and quality of these images and who buy and collect them for their outstanding aesthetic qualities. The printing technique itself is superior in Loates editions as compared to Princeton, Abbeville or Amsterdam editions of Audubon/Havell facsimile prints. The other view is that Loates has modified the original Audubon/Havell prints and therefore, they are less desirable. Using Braun’s(4) definitions, the Loates prints are reproductions, as compared to the Princeton, Abbeville and Amsterdams, which are considered facsimiles. The former copies the image while the latter tries to capture all aspects of the print (colors, feel, paper tone, plate marks, marginalia, etc.) Indeed, Loates paper is smoother and heavier than the original Whatman paper. He uses the modern names for each bird in the title. Loates has colorized some backgrounds, and modified images slightly. For example, one discrepancy is in Loates ‘Great Egret’ image. Loates version is lacking the horned lizard being stalked by the Egret, as in the original Audubon/Havell plate #386. Also, Loates has modified or eliminated marginalia from the Havell prints (including, disturbingly, removal of attributions to Audubon and Havell). For this reason, some collectors have a lesser appreciation for Loates work as collectible Audubonalia. Bill Steiner, in his book “Audubon Art Prints – A Collectors Guide to Every Edition”(5), puts it this way “I find it most difficult to judge fairly the Loates prints……The images are extremely well made….and the print quality far surpasses that of all the other modern, mass-produced prints…..Unfortunately, the absence of the marginalia just does not look right, and I have a serious issue with not giving credit to both Audubon and Havell on the prints. The added rectangular tinted backgrounds are a bit disconcerting as well.” So, if you are looking for bright, stunning, high quality avian images suitable for framing, Loates may be for you. If you are an ardent Audubon collector intent on owning only originals or exact facsimiles, then Loates might not be for you. Ultimately, appreciation of these images lies with the beholder.
© May 2005 by Terrance M. Wright - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Return to JJAudubongallery.com Home