Where does the word giclée come from?

The Giclée describes a relatively new technique for the production of small-scale artistic works of art. The term comes from the French word “gicler”, which means “spraying” or “spraying”. The American Jack Duganne “invented” him in 1991 in connection with an exhibition by the artist Diane Bartz.


He wanted to avoid terms such as “digital” and “computer” because they were too negative in the context of art at that time, and searched in a French dictionary for the corresponding word. Starting from the nozzles commonly used in inkjet printers, he came from the word “gicler” finally to “giclée”.



Giclées printing presses are expensive, high-quality inkjet printers, which are usually equipped with six to twelve different colors (some pigment-based). The first printers of this type were the so-called Iris models of the company Scitex. The original purpose of the process developed by Eastman Kodak was to have as color proof as possible, especially of the image material, before printing mass products. At the end of the 1980s, these machines began their triumphal procession in parallel with correspondingly powerful scanners and quickly gained worldwide distribution in printing houses and media agencies. Based on the excellent proofs, service providers and manufacturers were able to present the look of the end product to their customers and obtain the final print approval. At that time, however, it was not yet clear that the giclée would make its entry into the art in the following years.



On the one hand, a giclee is an excellent way to produce faithful reproductions of well-known paintings, photographs and other images. If you do not look very closely, you can hardly distinguish between the original and the copy. But many artists now use technology as an inexpensive alternative to lithography, the classic lithography process that used to create colorful graphics, and photographers as an alternative to traditional photo printing. The costs are relatively low for small print runs and the prices for giclées are correspondingly low compared to other art print methods. Incidentally, one of the pioneers in using the giclée was Graham Nash, also known as a member of the American band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which enjoyed great success in the 1970s. In the 1980s, Nash began to experiment with digital technology and to edit his own and on tour bought and collected photos. But the quality of the results could not satisfy him for a long time. Only with the iris technique Nash reached the self-imposed goals. He bought a machine for a then six-figure sum and founded the label Nash Editions. His exhibitions later traveled halfway around the world, for example in New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo, and the prints achieved some enormous prizes.


As an original art print in small editions, a giclee is usually signed and numbered by the artist, as with other techniques as well. When printed on canvas, it is mounted on a stretcher and then framed. A giclee on art paper receives a passe-partout and a glass frame.