The reproduction of the work of art was one of the most important revolutions in the field of art and also of typography. We have already talked about the birth of the press, but today we would like to emphasize the printing technique that is among the oldest and still used today, especially in the field of art: lithography.
The term lithography has a Greek matrix (lithos = stone, ghafhé = writing) and is used to indicate an engraving printing technique based on the principle of repulsion between water and any type of oily and greasy substance. This technique was already used in antiquity but only at the end of the 1700s Aloys Senefelder decided to use the system at the base of lithography for printing.
Let's go straight to the subject in order to understand in detail how to make a lithography with the traditional technique. First of all it is necessary to have a limestone matrix, smooth and regular. In the classical technique on stone the work to be reproduced is engraved, then the stone is sprinkled with talc and subjected to a first cleaning treatment with gum arabic and then with nitric acid. At this point the inking takes place and the stone is placed in the lithographic press where the print on paper of the work will take place.
The lithographic print can be monochromatic or chromo-lithographic, that is to say in more colors. The procedure is obviously different because it involves the intervention of several steps depending on the chosen colors. For each color you want to use you will need to prepare a plate with the same design.
Throughout history the lithographic technique has been improved both in terms of materials and engraving techniques:
- The lava stone has been replaced with other materials capable of giving the same yield, such as zinc and aluminum;
- the incision has been replaced by the use of oily pencils, those that are generally referred to as "soap pencils" with the advantage of not creating grooves on the surfaces and obtaining the same repulsion effect as water and fatty substances.
In the field of art, where lithography has found great application, many artists have chosen this technique for their works, among the best known Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Odilon Redon and Francisco Goya.
You could go into detail of many types of lithographic prints, but here we just wanted to talk about a printing process that changed the course of art history, providing a new tool for creating the work of art.