The Art of Printing: Lithography

In 1798 a German man by the name of Alois Senefelder invented what would become a revolutionary method of printmaking known as lithography.  The concept of lithography is based on using the attraction and repulsion of oil and water upon a stone or metal plate which is then pressed against a substrate, creating a finished printed image.  In order to make this possible, the image must first be created in reverse (as if looking at a mirror) on the stone or metal plate.  What makes lithography unique however is that the plate remains completely smooth, unlike a stamp or other relief printing techniques.  Rather, the stone is treated so that the area which will be printed onto the substrate repels water and attracts oil while the rest of the plate repels oil allowing ink to be transferred only to the printed area of the substrate.

Throughout the 1800s the process of lithography was refined, allowing images to be printed in color, and became a widely used method of printing among commercial industries and artists alike.  By the 20th Century the practice had become a staple for print making within the art world.  Many world renowned artists of this era produced some of their most esteemed pieces using the process of lithography including Toulouse Lautrec's famous "Moulin Rouge:  La Goulue" Poster, "The Bull" by Pablo Picasso, and "Metropolis" created in 1927 by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm which sold for $690,000 in 2005.  Recently on display here at Just Looking Gallery were a series of vintage lithograph Mexican travel posters and two rare YMCA and YWCA lithograph posters.


by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm 1927

"Ciudad Juárez Mexico"

by Jose Luiz Sanz Magallon 1938

"Moulin Rouge: La Goulue"

by Toulouse Lautrec 1891

"YMCA Lend Your Strength"

by Gil Spears 1918

Looking at the vast history of fine art and the numerous works which have truly remained timeless, it is impossible to overlook the immense impact of lithography.  It revolutionized the art world and remains a widely used practice within the print making industry to this day.