Catalogue of an Exhibition of the Art of Lithography: Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of Its Invention, 1798-1948

Catalogue of an Exhibition of the Art of Lithography: Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of Its Invention, 1798-1948

Catalogue of an Exhibition of the Art of Lithography: Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of Its Invention, 1798-1948

Catalogue of an Exhibition of the Art of Lithography: Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of Its Invention, 1798-1948

Excerpt

This 150th anniversary exhibition of lithography, showing its development from its birth until the present day, is the first exhibition of its size and scope in America comprised entirely of prints from a single museum. The nucleus of the exhibition is drawn from a large gift of 390 lithographs generously presented by Mr. and Mrs. Lewis B. Williams in recent years. This is supplemented by outstanding examples from the Museum's other collections. Among the numerous superb prints in the Williams group are many rare specimens of lithographic incunabula not hitherto represented in the collection.

Lithography, or planographic printing, is the third and youngest of the three printing methods. It is printing from a flat surface and herein lies its essential difference from relief (printing from raised lines) and intaglio (printing from sunken lines). It was invented in 1798 by Aloys Senefelder of Bavaria, who, in his efforts to find an inexpensive method to reproduce the text of his plays, accidentally fell upon a new and revolutionary way of printing.

Lithography is based on the simple chemical principle of the natural aversion of water and grease and the affinity that the stone has for both. When a drawing is made with a greasy crayon on a lithographic stone or especially prepared metal plate it becomes firmly fixed and even more so after being washed with a weak solution of nitric acid. The stone is then moistened with water, and as grease and water repel each other, the parts drawn upon with the crayon will reject the water and the undrawn parts will receive it. In passing a roller charged with greasy ink over the stone the same principle applies--the greasy ink will adhere to the drawn areas and be repelled by those that are wet. The final step is taken when a sheet of paper is placed over the inked stone and both are run through a press.

In 1799 Senefelder received from the Elector Maximilian Joseph, King of Bavaria, an official fifteen-year privilege of practicing lithography in Bavaria. In 1809 he was appointed Inspector of the Royal Lithographic Establishment, a position which paid him a salary of 1500 florins a year for over twenty years.

A patent on the process was obtained in England in 1801 in Senefelder's name, and in 1803 the first lithographs to be printed . . .

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