International Senefelder Foundation Marks Its 40th Anniversary

OFFENBACH, GERMANY—Nov. 4, 2011—Alois Senefelder did for image printing what Gutenberg did for letterpress printing, i.e. both inventors enabled a high-quality method of duplication. Senefelder developed lithography in 1797/98, around 350 years after Gutenberg invented the moveable type system used in book printing.

The author, actor and lawyer had been searching for an inexpensive way of duplicating his theater texts. While experimenting with Solnhofen limestone shale, he discovered “chemical printing,” or lithography. The discovery of lithographic printing played an important role for the art scene of the time. The world was ready for this new printing technique in other areas as well; Senefelder’s invention was a good fit for the industrial production methods which were gradually gaining ground.

The spirit of the time—Classicism followed by Romanticism—called for the presentation of ancient museum pieces in catalogs as well as the large-scale reproduction of landscape paintings for private salons. The new printing method could cater to these demands.

Lithographic printing also came to play an important role in the art world. As an artistic technique, it has changed little since its discovery. Lithography continues to give painters a good deal of freedom and countless possibilities for variation in their work. The history of lithography is closely linked with the names of important artists, such as Francisco de Goya, Honoré Daumier, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edvard Munch, Paul Cézanne, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde and Käthe Kollwitz. Well known artists from Pablo Picasso to Salvador Dalí round off this list.

The International Senefelder Foundation (ISS) was founded on Nov. 6, 1971, to commemorate the 200th birthday of Alois Senefelder. It’s purpose is to preserve the memory of this brilliant inventor, to foster the efforts of young artists and technicians, to collect documents, objects and lithographs, as well as to organize or support exhibitions that promote the technique of lithography and its further development.

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