What is a Lithograph?

Lithography as a method of printmaking was invented over 200 years ago in Germany.

The original process involved using wax, oil, or fat, to draw onto the surface of a limestone plate. The surface of the plate was then treated with acid and gum arabic, etching the areas not covered by the oil. fat, or wax. Then after exposing water to the etched areas, oil based ink applied to the plate would only stick to the drawn surfaces covered by the oil, fat or wax, and the plate could then could be pressed on to paper or another surface, in order to print or reproduce the original drawing. Modern lithography instead uses a polymer coating on an aluminum plate. 

After overcoming technical problems with the process, the process of lithography was adopted in the 1820s by artists including Delacroix and Gericalut.  Most early lithographs were first produced in Germany, followed by production in London, and by mid century in France. After production of lithographs became become less popular for a time, renewed interest began in the 1870s in France, with the prints of Redon, Degas, and Fantin-Latour followed by the color lithographs of Toulouse-Lautrec in the 1890s. By 1900 it had become an accepted method of color and monotone printmaking.

As an art form lithography evolved at Mourlot Studios in Paris, orginally founded in 1852. Fernand Mourlot invited numerous signficant 20th century painters to work directly on the lithographic stones to create original artworks to be printed in limited editions. Those artists included Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Chagall, Leger, Calder, Braque, and Dufy. Additionally modern artists David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and others produced prints using lithography. Read more here.