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Lithography/Chromolithography

Lithography was invented in the early 19th century German town by Alois Senefelder. The processes was neither relief cut into wood, like a Japanese wood block that printed using coloured pigments, nor an incision in metal like an engraving. This was a Planeographic, or surface printing technique. It depends for its success in the mutual antipathy of grease and water. The artist makes his drawing with a greasy crayon on  Bavarian Limestone. The surface was like polished marble to which greasey crayone was drawn, yet poroous. Water was applied it absorbed the water except where there is grease present. Then a greasy ink is rolled over the image which adheres to the greasy crayon.   If the stones are then run through a press, an exact replica of the original drawing on stone comes out, in mirror image. Lithography employed one stone and printed a tonal image using black ink only. Colour was applied by an army of hand colourists employed by the printing houses, using water colour and /or gouache with highlights and intensity added with eggwhite and gum arabic.  Fur and feathers were ideally suited to the process.  John Gould famously chose this technique to replicate his Bird and Mammal collectons from 1839-1888.

The next evolutionary step was the double/tri tint lithographic process using two/three stones each dedicated to one colour. The sky and water is represented on the Blue ink, the landscape by the Sepia ink, and the detail by the Black ink.

Finally Chromolithography arrived in the 1860’s employing up to 5 stones. An area of colour on one (yellow ink) may overlap another (blue ink) to create a secondary colour (green ink). Because the inks had a greasy content the colour was more vibrant than the water colour that was used on a black and white lithographs. Later the pints were varnished giving  the appearance of a varnished oil painting if required, negating the use of glass.

 


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