Poster History

Stone Age Man – The Birth of Stone Lithography

Karcher Lithographers

Paris printer using stone lithography, ca. 1925. Artists or master lithographers would transfer designs to stone using a grease pencil. The design was fixed with acid, and the stone could then be inked with one color and run through the press. Most jobs consisted of four colors (yellow, red, blue and black) which required four stones, as seen here.

February 26 marks the 177th anniversary of the death of Alois Senefelder (1771 – 1834). All poster fans owe a debt to Senefelder, a German actor and playwright. It was while seeking an inexpensive way to publish one of his plays that Senefelder developed stone lithography, the technique of printing an image multiple times using a set of specially prepared stone plates. It was this discovery, refined by Jules Cheret in the 1860s and 1870s, that eventually made possible the exuberant color and rich textures that characterized the “Golden Age of the Poster” from 1890 to World War II.

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