Choose a language
Use Arthive in the language you prefer
Sign up
Create an account
Register to use Arthive functionality to the maximum


4,198 artworks, 713 artists
Lithography (anc. gr. λίθος “stone” + γράφω “I write, draw”) is a type of graphics that is based on the technique of flat printing when paint is being transferred from a solid medium to paper with the use of a printing press. The term means the technique, and the corresponding artworks are called lithographs. Artists draw a picture on a flat hard surface, a lithographic stone, which is previously polished with water and sand. The artistic tools are brush, pen, bold ink and a lithographic pencil. The artist treats the stone with the picture with acids, which react with the paint and form a layer of salt on the stone. The artist removes acid residues with turpentine and washes off the image, and then applies the printing ink. Areas of the stone, where there was the drawing with oily ink, take paint, the rest of the surface remains clean. On a lithographic press, the artist transfers the image to paper by pressure, thus creating a lithograph painting. The technique makes it possible to replicate works, it allows for editing a drawing and the repeated grinding of the stone to use it for a new painting. Lithography has become a favourite form of printing for illustrators, cartoonists and advertising creators.

The father of lithography was the German Johann Alois Senefelder, who accidentally discovered the new technique in 1796—1798 in his own printing house, and 10 years later he created the first lithographic workshop and published an exact guide to printing on stone. The new technique turned out to be cheaper than engraving and gained popularity among European artists. Initially, the artists created monochrome images. To obtain colour paintings, the print was hand-coloured with watercolours. In the 1830s, the French invented the technique of multicolour lithography. The streets of European cities were adorned with theatrical posters, advertising materials, shop windows with bright magazine covers. In the second half of the 19th century, the impressionists preferred lithography, and at the end of the century Jules Chéret and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec created brilliant examples of posters. In the 20th century, artists lost interest in flat printing: lithography gave way to offset printing and zincography.

Art critics divide lithographs into types depending on the creation technology. Artists manually create paintings on a printing plate in autolithography, use separate plates for each colour in chromolithography (colour printing), and use light-sensitive materials in photolithography. Each print has artistic value as the original of the artist’s lithography, on which the artist puts a number and signature. By flat printing, artists create landscapes and genre scenes, illustrations for scientific publications and popular literature, labels and cartoons. Lithographs convey all the features of an artist’s pictorial language — representatives of romanticism, expressionismabstract art and other styles enjoyed using the technique. Religious lithography became a separate genre: the printed images of saints were made in monastic printing houses. Lithographic images made the art of great artists and budding talents available to the general public.

Famous lithographs:
Coal Cars” 1821, “Pity the sorrows of a poor old man!” 1821, “The French blacksmith” 1822 by Théodore Gericault; “Ambassador: Aristide Bruant in His Cabaret”, “Japanese Coach” 1893 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; “The Gambler” 1897, :”Parsifal” 1891, “Serpent Halo” 1899 Odilon Redon; “Evening Contemplation”, “Emerald” 1899 Alphonse Mucha; “Drawing Hands” 1948, “Relativity” 1953 Maurits Cornelis Escher.

Théodore Gericault, Eugène Delacroix, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Honoré Daumier, Henri Matisse, Alphonse Mucha, Maurits Cornelis Escher.