Exhibition Opening Reception: The Art of the Lithograph

Event information
Venue:Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU


The Art of the Lithograph features prints by Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Jim Dine, Don Eddy, R.B. Kitaj, Lee Krasner, Roy Lichtenstein, Camille Pissarro, Robert Motherwell, and are on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York Historical Society, The Patricia & Phillip Frost Museum of Art, The Wolfsonian-FIU, The NSU Art Museum and Hebrew Union College. The striking prints are excellent examples of the lithography process and represent historically important and diverse artists. Visitors to JMOF-FIU will view authentic lithography stones and see the complex steps used to print a lithograph.

The term lithograph is derived from the Latin words for stone (lithe) and mark (graph). The first lithograph was invented by accident by the Bavarian printmaker Aloys Senefelder in 1796, using limestone, found regionally. Senefelder wrote a list of supplies he needed with his own grease ink mixture on a stone. He then decided to cover the stone with a mild acid and found that the only area on the surface protected from the acid was where the marks he drew up from his oil crayon were. He then inked up those grease marks and printed it by pressing paper to the stone. The stone retained the pigment so well that Senefelder was able to print many more images from the stone.

The process took off in Paris around 1815, used mainly by artists at the time for the subtle variations it could achieve to depict light and tone. By the 1830s, in addition to artwork, commercial uses for lithography exploded due to the ease and clarity of the process, such as illustrations for the press and advertisements. By the latter half of the 19th century, color had been added to the process, again dramatically changing commercial mass production. Artists, working with the new color process, attracted a whole new level of collectors, who until that time had not been able to afford works by renowned artists before.

Transfer lithography was soon developed, to allow an artist the ability to work on their drawing outside of the print shop, such as in a café or outdoors to do a landscape. Artists sketched on transfer paper using the oil crayons, which they then brought to the printers. The paper was placed face-down on the stone or a metal plate and then run through a press. In this fashion, the design was transferred to the printing surface, which is then ready to print. The first metal plates used were copper, followed by zinc and then later aluminum. The lithography revolution was catapulted into stardom with the invention of the steam-driven rotary off-set press in 1895, allowing for wide-scale industrial printing for commercial purposes.

Lithography, still the most widely used process in mass-produced printing, continues to evolve today with new technologies on the market such as LED UV lithography. The exhibition will be on view from November 7, 2018 through March 3, 2019.

Free for Members, $12.00 for non-members