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Old 04-08-2021, 02:30 AM
Diderick A. den Bakker's Avatar
Diderick A. den Bakker Diderick A. den Bakker is offline
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Just a bit about the technical side of lithography.
First stage: making the original picture. This could be anything, in b/w or full colour. In many cases, the artist would probably be given instructions by the printer / publisher (in this case Epinal) about size, amount of detail, number of colors.
Second stage: the lithographer then had to translate the original onto the printing stone. Remember: everything had to be in reverse, of course! The first stone would be the b/w basis, looking a bit like an engraving.
So far, so good. The next stage is the really difficult one: a new stone had to be made for every separate colour. Just try to imagine how difficult it was to fit the coloured areas - without having the black lines available. Not exactly painting by numbers... Lighter or darker shades in one colour could be suggested by the 'density' of the underlying b/w print. Looking closely at the 'Zeppelins over Paris' I think there are just two colours. In a lith. museum I saw prints and stones of luxury cigar box illustrations, which took up to twelve stones. Same for the lovely, colorful vintage Xmas cards we all know.
Last stage: the actual printing, when various stones had to be registered with extreme care.
There was also a very much cheaper technique for adding colour: a number of stencils were cut by jigsaw from a thin sheet of copper, again one for every colour. Colours often do not exactly fit the lines - often seen on the cheapest of prints, and on sheets with soldiers. etc.
Google says the only museum of lithography in the world is the one in my country. Of course I already had a vague knowledge of this craft, but a visit to the museum brought home to me exactly how high the level of artisanship used to be. A special trip to our country is perhaps a bit much, but there are bound to be books for those who want to know more about this dying technique!
The picture shows the stencil machine for mass production, regularly demonstrated in the Epinal Museum.
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Old 04-08-2021, 03:15 AM
SteveB SteveB is offline
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Thanks for the explanation Diderick - it's a fascinating process. I've tried something similar, but far more basic with lino printing in the past. Makes you appreciate the skill of the professionals!
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Old 04-08-2021, 04:01 AM
Kevin WS's Avatar
Kevin WS Kevin WS is offline
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Diderick - thank you very much for that explanation. Very interesting. If and when I can ever get to the Netherlands again, I will certainly make certain I pay the museum a visit.


Early printing is certainly fascinating - I have been fortunate enough to see an early iron hand press used at a mission station in Kuruman. It was brought to South Africa in 1825 and used regularly until 1882. It is still operable and used from time to time, and because they saw I was interested when I was there, they actually printed a couple of sheets for me.

The history surrounding it is especially fascinating - it was used by the Rev Moffat whose daughter married David Livingstone (he was a Minister at that station). He also used to set out on his expeditions to the interior from here - the remains of the old road to "the Interior" are still visible.

The first Bible to be printed in Africa was also printed on this press!
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Old 04-15-2021, 03:15 PM
Tom Greensfelder Tom Greensfelder is offline
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Thanks for the pic of the stencil machine, Diderick. My impression is that most of the Epinal models were done that way. The few that have printed colors are pretty disappointing. I actually did some lithography in a class at a community college. Very tricky process if you're not a pro. The most famous lithographic artist was probably Toulouse Lautrec who, if I remember correctly, drew directly on the stones himself. Quite unusual for a poster artist of that time.

"Lautrec created his first lithograph in 1891. When he was commissioned to create a poster advertising the Moulin Rouge, he elevated the lithograph as a popular medium for advertising to the realm of high art.

Over three thousand copies of his Moulin Rouge, La Goulue were pasted on the walls around Paris, prompting an outpouring of popular and critical acclaim and turning the young artist into an overnight sensation."
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