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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeTechniques Harvey-LeePlanographic Intro Harvey-LeeColour Lithography

Colour Lithography

In both its flat tints and chalky line lithography lends itself to colour printing and Senefelder made efforts to introduce it by using a second stone for a coloured tint, a practice perfected by the German lithographers Strixner and Piloty about 1808-10.

Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828): Lac Lomond

Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-1828):
"Lac Lomond - vu de la Caverne de Rob Roy"
From: 'Vues Pittoresques de l'Ecosse'. Tinted lithograph, 1826.
Printed from three stones in black, beige and white.
(168 x 287 mm)

Tinted lithography became popular from the late 1820’s, particularly in England, as a method of reproducing tinted drawings. The tint stone was painted with greasy wash all over except for areas of ‘white’ highlight. Usually it was printed in cream or buff. The white highlights were those unprinted areas where the natural colour of the paper showed through. The principal stone with the drawing was printed in black over the tint. Sometimes a second ‘blue’ tint stone was added for the sky (tinted lithography was largely used to reproduce drawings of landscape).

Attempts at full colour lithography from multiple stones were made in the early 1820’s but the principle of colour printing from four stones in the three primary colours and black (an adaptation to lithography of the principle of Le Blon) was only patented in 1837 by Godfrey Englemann, who had been a pupil of Senefelder and opened a lithographic printing works in Paris. Englemann developed the technique as a means of reproducing coloured images, rather than as an artist’s original means of expression.

More important for the future artistic development of colour lithography was the work of the English printer Charles Joseph Hullmandel (1789-1850), who independently at the same period developed chromolithography as an extension of tinted lithography by hugely increasing the number of tint stones employed. He used a different stone for each printed colour, rather than relying on overprinting and optical mix of the four-colour technique.

Thomas Shotter Boys (1803–1874): Byloke, Ghent. Colour lithograph, 1839. Printed from multiple stones. (269 x 370 mm)

Thomas Shotter Boys (1803–1874): "Byloke, Ghent".
Colour lithograph, 1839
Printed from multiple stones.  (269 x 370 mm)

One of Boys’ scenes of “Picturesque Architecture in Paris, Ghent, Antwerp,
Rouen etc.” . Other subjects from this series are included in a dedicated
web exhibition, soon to be featured here.

Hullmandel developed new translucent inks to achieve local colour and tonal variation. Though Hullmadel’s technique too was largely directed towards translating designs first conceived in watercolour, his pioneering work in collaboration with the artist Thomas Shotter Boys resulted in the first artist’s original lithographs printed in colours (see illustration above). These were published in a portfolio in 1839 with the title Picturesque Architecture in Paris, Ghent, Antwerp, Rouen, etc. A web exhibition, featuring the majority of the prints from the series, will soon be featured on this website.

It was only at the end of the century, after the revelation of Japanese colour prints, that artists again got excited about making images printed in colour. The colour lithographic posters of Cheret in the 1880’s anticipated an effloresence of lithographic colour in the 1890’s, the decade dominated by Toulouse-Lautrec, in both posters and colour prints, and culminates in the colour lithographs of Renoir and the intimiste Nabis, Bonnard and Vuillard, encouraged by the publisher Ambroise Vollard.

In England, despite the early interest evinced by Shotter Boys, colour was much slower in becoming a means of original artistic expression in lithography. In the first decade of the 20th century John Copley made some interesting colour lithographs (see illustration top right), but his later work in the medium was black and white. Much later in the century, artists such as Terry Frost (see illustration above right) recognized the potential of brilliant colours in conjunction with free drawing which lithography allows to create abstract prints.


John Copley (1875-1950): “A Tea Shop”.

John Copley (1875-1950): “A Tea Shop”.
Colour lithograph, 1909.

Printed from nine different stones in various
shades of blue, red, yellow and brown.
(247 x 242 mm)

Exhibited at the first exhibition of the newly founded Senefelder Club, established to encourage lithography as a medium for artist’s original prints. The Club advocated that artists print their own lithographic stones, rather than having the usual recourse to a professional lithographic printer. Copley and his wife Ethel Gabain lived at The Yews, at Longfield in Kent, and Copley sometimes, as here, added a small ‘remarque’ of a yew tree to the lower margin as an indication that he had printed the impression himself in his studio at The Yews.


D N Morgan (exhibiting 1918–1936): The Bridge, Srinagar. Colour lithograph. (202 x 308 mm)

D N Morgan (exhibiting 1918–1936):
"The Bridge, Srinagar".  Colour lithograph, c1925.
(202 x 308 mm)


Rolf Durig (1926-1985): “Boats in Harbour”. Lithograph, 1949.
Printed from four stones in red, yellow,
blue and black inks. (300 x 357 mm)
Probably a view of Cannes, which Durig
visited that year.


Terry Frost (1915–2003): Colour Rhythm, Newlyn

Terry Frost (1915–2003): "Colour Rhythm, Newlyn".
Colour lithograph, 1997.  (550 x 540 mm)


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