This exhibition offers a visual narrative of British lithography from its beginnings at the turn of the 19th century to the present day. Many of the prints on show are taken from the Aberystwyth University School of Art Collections.
Since its invention by Alois Senefelder in 1798, lithography has always been perceived as the most difficult of printmaking processes. The technical skill required by the complexity of the process has necessarily required collaboration between the artist and printer, and the narrative of this exhibition is focused through the lens of that process. The first collaboration of this sort in Britain took place in 1801 between Philipp André, trained by Senefelder, and artists from the Royal Academy in London, published as Specimens of Polyautography and comprising pen and ink drawings printed from lithographic stone.
In the following two hundred years, significant pairings of artists and printers have contributed to the technical and aesthetic development of lithography into a sophisticated process, capable of rendering chalk and wash drawing and a full range of tone and colour. Such pairings of printer and artist are represented in this exhibition: D J Redman with the artist Thomas Barker of Bath; Louis Haghe and David Roberts; Thomas Way and his son Thomas Robert Way with James Abbott McNeil Whistler.
By the second half of the twentieth century, fine art lithography became detached from commercial chromolithography with the establishment of collaborative practice based on the Parisian ‘atelier’ model by such presses such as Miller’s Press in1945, Harley’s in Edinburgh in the 1950s and Stanley Jones at the Curwen Studio in 1958. Stanley Jones has been at the centre of a seismic transformation in contemporary fine art lithography and has worked with nearly every post-war British artist working in the medium, including Barbara Hepworth, Terry Frost, Ceri Richards, John Piper, Henry Moore and Paula Rego.
Contemporary studios offering professional collaboration and editioning services for artists, such as Edinburgh Printmakers, Hole Editions, Redbreast Editions, Oaks Park Studio and Lemonade Press, are thus indebted to the legacy of Jones at the Curwen Studio. They have also benefitted from the training of collaborative printers, who have since set up studios or teach at colleges across Britain. Research into and the development of lithographic practice has not been confined to Britain, and much is owed to the research undertaken at the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque during the last sixty years.
Paul Croft, the curator of this exhibition, qualified as a Master Printer at the Tamarind Institute in 1996 and now teaches printmaking here at the School of Art in Aberystwyth.