Collectible Lithographs


2015-06-26 11:23:58

Collectible Lithographs

Collectible Lithographs are prints created using Lithography, a style of printmaking based upon the chemical aversion of water and oil.


History and Background

Invented in 1798 by Alois Senefelder, the process begins with an image drawn onto a porous surface with a lubricious medium. The image is then burned onto the surface as acid is applied. Gum arabic, or other water soluble substances, seals the surface of the stone not covered by the grease-based material of the original drawing.

After the stone is wetted, oil ink is applied to the image. Due to the chemical repulsion of ink and water, only the ink sticks to the greasy parts. Lithography is renowned for its high level of detail and the ability of capturing fine gradients in shading and tones.

Due to its technical complexity, Lithography has remained a relatively obscure method of printmaking. However, it was used by the Romanticist’s Theodore Gericault and Francisco De Goya.

Lithography as a recognised art form, however, did not occur until the late nineteenth century when it became particularly popular with French artists, most notably Toulouse-Lautrec, but it was also used by a number of the twentieth century’s most celebrated artists, including Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch and Joan Miró.

Guide for Collectors

Lithographs feature regularly in annual Print Department auctions at all reputable auction houses and showcase a wide variety of artists work. Fortunately, a plethora of international artists created Lithograph prints and it is common to see artists such as Paul Klee, David Hockey, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Sam Francis and Roy Lichtenstein on the open market.

Additionally, the Lithographs tend to sell for less than etchings or any variety of printmaking and prices can start from as little as £2,000. Of course, rare prints attract the most attention and it is prudent to carefully read the auction lots information regarding the quantity of prints. Moreover, the rarity of the prints can be difficult to determine as in some instances it is impossible to clarify how many images were originally printed.

Due to his popularity in contemporary culture, original Toulouse-Lautrec Lithographs are by far the most desirable and collectable. They are also the most expensive. His colourful and theatrical posters depicting the fin de siéle of decadent Paris regularly sell for over £12,000. The French painter offers a provocative alternative to the Post-Impressionist style.

A number of signed, original Toulouse-Lautrec’s Lithographs can be bought online at and range from £10,000 to £20,000.

Value & Notable Auction Sales

In September 1989, Toulouse Lautrec’s “Moulin Rouge” was sold for approximately £143,250, when it was sold through Drouot’s, Paris. However, if this piece would be available in the market today, it is likely that it would fetch more than four times that amount.

In September 2011, a selection of five Joan Miró lithographs, created just three years before his death, were sold at Sotheby’s, London, for just under £9,000.

Notable Artists

  • Paul Klee
  • David Hockey
  • Robert Rauschenberg
  • Jasper Johns
  • Andy Warhol
  • Roy Lichtenstein
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
  • Salvador Dalí
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Marc Chagall
  • Edvard Munch
  • Joan Miró
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