Upon seeing some of our finest Master works from our collection of 1.7 million pieces of art we are often asked the question “Which pieces are originals?” and “What really makes a work of art a true original?” While an authentic painting from Picasso, Dali, or Chagall can run into the tens of millions of dollars, an original lithograph offers the same quality and beauty and is handled, approved, and signed by the original artist at a fraction of the cost. Many question the difference between a lithograph and a print. If you are shopping at our gallery you should know what goes into creating the piece you will showcase in your home or space for years to come.
To put it simply, a lithograph is a type of printing process used to reproduce original works of art. It is an authorized and many times originally crafted work by the artist or craftsman but does not require metal etchings like traditional prints do. Instead, they are made on a stone table or metal plate using various chemicals to duplicate the work. If the lithograph is of high quality and has a low production number then it can be worth thousands of dollars.
Unlike regular prints, lithography does not require any physical carving but rather a set of greasy crayons or pencils. Once the long process of drawing the recreated the work is complete, the artist begins the true technique.
Lithography is based on the principle that water and oil do not mix by applying a variety of oil-based chemicals that bond with the greasy crayons. Water is wiped on the empty areas to keep the ink from spreading. The entire tablet is then covered with a sheet of cotton paper.
This is where the lithograph is similar to a traditional print. The stone or table and paper are placed in a press and given light pressure. For a pen and ink drawing this would be the only press run but for a piece with colors or various textures the process would have to be repeated and the same paper pressed over until completion. It can be compared to creating color pages in a newspaper.
So why do lithographs still have value even though they are not the original work? The lithography process can be just as time-consuming and detailed as the original painting and they are many times authentically signed by the artist. Many famous artists, such as Dali and Picasso who both have lithographs displayed in our gallery, authorized or created numerous lithographs during their time to allow more access to their works. Usually, a signed lithograph is limited in number to preserve value. So an artist may create only 300 lithographs which can be determined by the fraction in the corner of the piece.
This is not to say that every print you see is a lithograph. Regular prints sell for significantly less than original lithographs and you should make sure to ask about the background and method used to recreate the piece before you invest in it. Much like original works, high-quality lithographs that are signed by the artist can increase in value over time and serve to be quite the collectors’ item.
Most importantly, make sure you love your new piece of art regardless of how it was made. You can find original paintings and authentic lithographs from world renowned artists at our gallery.