Art History  •  Movements and techniques

Lithography: the Variety and Democracy of a medium

Lithography is one of the greatest artistic developments of the 19th century. Literally translated as “writing on stone”, lithography is a technique that involves etching a drawing in oil or fat, and using the immiscibility (inability to be mixed) of ink and water to make an imprint, usually on paper. It enabled artists and illustrators to duplicate drawings and texts in large quantities. The popularity of lithography spread and developed diverse, developed sub-categories of works. Singulart explores some of these varied expressions of the medium throughout history, and celebrates our selection of artists who work with various print techniques today.

Honoré Daumier – Gargantua

This caricature of King Louis-Philippe appeared in the French magazine “La Caricature” in 1831. Honoré Daumier, in his lithograph, depicts the King in the form of the giant Gargantua from the novel Rabelais, to whom the work owes its name. Daumier drew the head of his Gargantua as a well-formed pear with an infinitely long tongue, which transported the money of the people directly to its corpulent bowels.

Fritz Fuhrken – Paussau city gate

The German expressionist painter and graphic artist took inspiration from the experiences in the First World War on the front of Russia. A 15 month imprisonment in England brought him in contact with other artists. Back in Germany he founded the artists’ association “Der Fels” with two other artists and fellow prisoners of the prison camp. Through the contact to an artist living in Passau, Fritz Fuhrken quickly became enthusiastic about the charming city and made it the motif of several lithograph series.


Odilon Redon – L’oeuf

Odilon Redon made a name for himself as a graphic artist and came to the lithograph in 1878, which he used skillfully to print his drawings in series. He was also very well-read, and with the inspiration of Zola and Victor Hugo, he literally devoted himself to the dark side of life. The series “Noirs” is the theme of fear and oppression in a variety of facets. This is how the “L’oeuf” lithography, which shows an egg with a face in its narrow egg cup, illustrates a space constraint dream. He liked to combine animals and objects with illustrated personification into a rather gloomy context.


Edvard Munch – Historien

A lithograph disappears in a gallery in Oslo and reappears 6 years later – “Historien” wrote art history, even during his own absence! Edvard Munch made a name for himself not only as a painter, but also as a graphic artist and came into contact with the lithography in Berlin for the first time. After his death, this work was exhibited at the Munch Museum in Oslo and was stolen through this exhibition but was found six years later.


Today, lithography is a lesser-used technique due to the ubiquity of advanced electric printers. Yet many contemporary artists are still using the medium, learning how to push its boundaries in the contemporary art sphere. See how our artists at Singulart continue the tradition of lithography prints here!

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