The Circus, 1960

Lithography: A printing Revolution

Lithography is a printing process that is popular for auction purchases. The process involves using a metal plate or flat stone to apply an artistic design to a flat surface.

What is Lithography?

Lithography is a method of repeatable printing that dates to as far back as 1796. An image is designed on a limestone or metal plate and applied to the surface. The word lithography comes from the Greek word “lithos,” meaning “stones” and the word “graphien,” which stands for “to write.”

You can look at the print under a magnifying glass to tell if it is an offset lithograph or hand lithography. The inks on hand lithography appear richer in color, with random dot patterns.

How is a Lithograph Created?

A Lithograph is created when a piece of stone or other material is used to print with grease and water. It resembles a painting. An artist might draw a design or image on metal plates or flat stones with greasy pencils or litho crayons.

Then a chemical is applied to the surface, which attracts moisture and repels the ink. Where the artist has drawn on the design, the design will retain the ink without smearing. The artist lays a piece of paper over the stone or metal plate to create the print.

History of Lithography

Andy Warhol Race Riot

Lithography became a popular way for artists in France to express themselves. Prominent figures like Theodore Gericault, Francisco de Goya, and Eugene Delacroix used lithography in the 1820s. The lithograph revival was later associated with the works of Degas, Odilon Redon, and Henri Fantin-Latour.

Jules Chéret was the father of the modern poster in the 1890s. The boundaries of lithography were further pushed and rediscovered through the works of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Raoul Dufy, Alexis Leger, Henri Matisse, and Joan Miró.

M.C. Escher and other 20th century artists developed lithography into an art form. Escher used contemporary printmaking techniques and quality printers to push the boundaries of art and science.

Who Invented Lithography?

The person credited as the inventor of Lithography is German actor Alois Senefelder. He used porous limestone to design and print Lithographs. His initial discovery of the Lithography process was inspired by his own need to print his play, Mathilde von Altenstein. In 1818, Senefelder published The Invention of Lithography, a book about his process. Others followed his general process and experienced the same cost-saving strategy.

Original Stone Lithographs

The earliest forms of lithographs created by Original Stone blocks remains remarkably unchanged. In line with Senefelder’s directions, a carbon pigment (tusche) and litho crayon to draw, fix, moisten, and ink the surface, are still used.

Original Plate Lithographs

With an Original Plate Lithograph, the artist’s drawing is reproduced on aluminum plates. These plates are cheaper and easier-to-use materials for lithography.

Lithographic Reproductions

A Lithographic print involves a screened negative which is transferred to a photosensitive lithographic plate and then printed on coated paper. It could be a copy of any work of art. Lithographic print or reproductions are sometimes called posters.

Mylar Plate Lithographs

A Mylar Plate Lithograph differs because the artist draws on mylar, which looks like a plastic sheet or polyester film. Then, when complete, the artist transfers the image onto the lithographic plate and prints it.

Offset Print

An artist uses the offset press to create an offset print. The offset print is transferred to a rubber blanket and then applied to the paper or stone lithograph. Offset prints can vary in color. It is a popular lithography method because it’s a fast, low-cost, and effective way to reproduce the original piece.

Importance and Use of Lithography in Modern Arts

Modern Artists reinvented lithography to express their modernist perspectives. Some of the most famous lithography artists include Thomas Barker of Bath, James Barry, Richard Cooper, Henry Fuseli, Henry Richard Greville, William Henry Pyne, Thomas Stothard, Benjamin West, and Henry Singleton.


Marc Chagall lithograph auction

Lot 0022 Marc Chagall - The Circus

Marc Chagall was a Russian-French artist. He was an early modernist, known as one of the most important Jewish artists of the 20th century. His works included stage sets, drawings, stained glass, book illustrations, ceramic tapestries, and fine art prints. Chagall’s works were a direct response to Russian-Jewish history, with direct reference to his early home life and experiences.


Picasso lithograph auction

Lot 0028 - Pablo Picasso - Le Ballet

Pablo Picasso was a master of printmaking and lithography. He was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. He’s widely known for his range of artistic creativity and genius. He demonstrated his ingenuity through his works of ceramics, etchings, linocuts, and paintings. He was the inventor of Cubism, but he was an important figure in Modern Art. Picasso was influential and inspiring during his lifetime. His works continue to be popular for contemporary audiences.

What’s the Next Step? Lithography Auction

Lithography can be an excellent investment via auction. As is often the case with art collections, quality is a key factor in selection. Determine if the lithograph is common or rare. Check to see if the lithography is number or hand signed. 

If the original plate has been lost or destroyed, the copies are worth more. The condition of the work, the artist, and the authenticity will also factor in on the investment value of the work at auction. You can also look for a signature, discoloration or blemishes, as well as random ink dotting, which could point to Offset lithography.

Explore the world of Lithography via the accessibility of an online auction at Dane Fine Art. Online auctions at Dane Fine Art offer an immersive artistic experience while fitting into your budget. With the latest online technology, the Dane Fine Art auction experience is unforgettable. It allows you to bring a high-quality gallery selection of your choice back to your home gallery. It is a great way to experience Lithography like never before.

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