French lithographs artists
Very early examples of color lithography, as well as black and white prints which span the century, are on view. The Stone Palette is a virtual survey of many of the important French artists of the century who found new levels of creative freedom by creating lithographic prints. The exhibition also contains a nineteenth-century lithographic stone with an idealized image of Justice drawn on its surface as if ready for printing.
The term lithography comes from the Greek, lithos stone and grapho to write, thus to write on stone. The process of chemical printing (as the inventor called it) is just that, writing (drawing) on stone. Lithography was invented by Alois Senefelder in Austria in 1798 and patented as a printing medium in 1799. Originally devised by Senefelder as a process for printing theater scripts, it saw dramatic investigation and refinement in the early nineteenth century as both a commercial printing process and as a means for artists to print directly from their drawings to make limited edition prints.
Improvements in lithographic drawing materials and chemical processes were made in France largely as the result of experimentation by Godefroy Engelmann (represented in the exhibition) who moved his press from Mulhouse, Germany to Paris in 1816. As a result of his efforts and others, the media become very attractive to artists in particular. For the first time, a printmaking media offered the artist the immediacy of drawing on paper and the flexibility to explore a wide range of visual effects. The popularity of artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, and Théodore Géricault exploded along with their exuberant images, fostering a revival in the interest of prints as affordable works of art for the middle class.