The 19th century brought a lot of significant changes to the development of the graphic design in general and to producing books with using innovative techniques in particular. The Industrial Revolution of the 18th – 19th centuries influenced the progress of the society, and many processes were considerably changed and mechanized. The accents were made on the speed of the definite technological procedures, the easiness of using their results, and financial benefits from utilizing the technologies and new mechanisms.
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Thus, the changes affected all the aspects of the people’s life including the art and design. Several centuries ago the books and illustrations which were made without any technologies were changed with the printed texts and images. The beginning of the 19th century resulted in the development of these processes, and such technologies as lithography and chromolithography began to be used in producing different kinds of scripts and illustrations.
The origins of chromolithography, and the development of the technique in the social context
The origins of chromolithography are closely connected with the development of such a printing technique as lithography. Lithography was worked out by Aloys Senefelder at the end of the 18th century as the effective and rather cheap method to produce a number of white-and-black images and illustrations. Moreover, Senefelder discussed the type of lithography with the help of which it would possible to produce colored pictures.
However, chromolithography as the way to produce different types of the colored illustrations and paintings was patented by the French printer Godefroy Engelmann in the middle of the 19th century1. Chromolithography became the very popular method to create illustrations for the books and different images of the various purpose because of the comparably cheapness of the process and its mechanized character.
The social meaning of inventing chromolithography was in the fact that a lot of people got the opportunity to buy the books with different colored illustrations which were rather inexpensive. Furthermore, many attractive images and colored prints were made with the help of chromolithography, and the masses had the opportunity to use these images in order to decorate their houses and the other apartments2.
The quality of the chromolithographs was quite high, and the development of the technique allowed the further increase of the chromolithographs’ quality. Moreover, the diversity of colors and their richness were accentuated. From this point, the Boston school of chromolithography had the great meaning for the progress of the technique because such leaders of the school as Richard M. Hoe and John H. Bufford proposed various innovations and improvements for chromolithography with making the process of producing the prints more complex, but preserving its availability and increasing the quality of the illustrations and images on different surfaces3.
The definition of the technique and the characteristic features of chromolithography with references to the artists
A chromolithograph can be discussed as a specific colored illustration or any image which is produced with the help of applications of many lithographic stones which are separate for different colors. Thus, each color was applied to the paper or any other surface separately.
The number of colors used for the image can be rather different, and the methods of their printing are also variable in relation to the complexity of the image. In spite of the fact the chromolithography was developed as the cheap and quick way to produce a lot of colorful illustrations, a chromolithograph with many colors and their complex combinations can take much time to be produced and to meet the quality standards.
Chromolithography was used not only for producing the illustrations for books. The technological process of producing the colored images allowed printing the images on many flat surfaces and working out labels, advertisements, copies of the drawings, oil paintings, watercolor images, and posters. It is rather difficult to relate to the designers who used chromolithography as the main technique for producing illustrations and colored images as to artists because of the character of their work.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to pay attention to the representatives of the Boston school of chromolithography Richard M. Hoe and John H. Bufford who developed chromolithography in order to produce the bright and attractive covers for the books and magazines and illustrations in them. Later, the other representatives of the school developed the technique to present colored advertisements. The new era in producing colored images began4.
More than 20 stones could be used in order to produce the complex combination of colors in the picture. It is impossible to say that such figures as, for instance, Louis Prang who began his specializing in the production of chromolithographs from making the colored cards were only the part of the movement. The development of chromolithography depended only on the efforts of the definite persons who stimulated its further progress and developed the peculiarities of the technique5.
The differences and similarities between the tradition of illuminated manuscripts and chromolithography
The tradition to decorate the manuscripts with the illuminated images was spread during the several centuries till the appearance of the first printed books. The artists created the pictures without using any technologies, and the number of colors used was limited. The whole process of creating the illuminated image was rather long and expensive. That is why the illuminated manuscripts cost much, and they were available only for the wealthy persons and aristocracy6.
The 19th century is characterized by new requirements to producing books and any images in general. The invention of chromolithography affects the process of producing illustrations, and it becomes quick and rather cheap in comparison with the traditional hand-coloring.
That is why, a lot of illustrations become available for a lot of people. In this situation, the publishers and decorators of books are not discussed as artists, but as designers. Moreover, the number of colors which can be used in chromolithography is higher than it was possible to use for making the illuminated manuscripts.
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Thus, the main similarities of these two movements is the active usage for decorating books, and the key differences are based on the character of producing the colored images and on the possibilities associated with using or not special mechanisms.
Today, it is not difficult to analyze the impact of the development of chromolithography for establishing the further art and design movements. The progress of chromolithography made the real revolution in producing the advertisements and copied images which became available for the large public masses.
Moreover, the shift from the hand-coloring to chromolithography provoked the next shift to using photochroms and then photographs in printing. Nevertheless, during the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century many artists stated that the usage of chromolithographs rejects the idea of art and design as the creative phenomenon with the references to mechanizing the process and the absence of creativity in it.
Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design: A New History. USA: Yale University Press, 2007.
Jones, Susan. “Manuscript Illumination in Northern Europe”. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.
Last, Jay T. The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography. USA: Hillcrest Press, 2005.
Meggs, Philip B. and Alston W. Purvis. Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
1 Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis, Meggs’ History of Graphic Design (USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2011).
2 Jay T. Last, The Color Explosion: Nineteenth-Century American Lithography, (USA: Hillcrest Press, 2005).
3 Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis, Meggs’ History of Graphic Design.
4 Philip B. Meggs and Alston W. Purvis, Meggs’ History of Graphic Design.
5 Stephen J. Eskilson, Graphic Design: A New History, (USA: Yale University Press, 2007).
6 Susan Jones, “Manuscript Illumination in Northern Europe”, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, 2002,