lithographic presses in action
All of the presses that
print lithographs in the Ré Collection were originally powered
by steam. In fact, this wheel is turning just as a steam locomotive's
engine wheel turns, with an arm fixed to an outer rim on one end
and the flat bed press on another. The wheel is designed to drive
the flat bed press forwards and backwards, so that the impression
of each unique plate can be made onto the paper. After each forward/backward
motion, an assistant pulls a print from the press, while another
assistant, feeds a new piece in. Each piece of paper must be placed
in the machine repeatedly, until all the colours and impressions
have been completed to create a final image. The S2 curating
department carefully examines and numbers each final lithograph
sequentially in pencil, making certain that each and every one
is perfect. Imperfect prints are discarded and are never part of
He's been working on these ancient
presses for about thirty years, and says they almost never break
down so long as they receive constant care and maintenance.
Despite the demanding, highly repetitive
nature of this work, and the necessity for all team members to operate
in synch, misfeeds and other errors are extremely rare. The presses
originally used giant stone plates, but have since been retrofitted
with metal plates in a process developed at S2 called Photolitho
They can't spare a square, the archival paper is too expensive. S2
Editions Atelier inventories an extensive selection of museum-quality
European, Japanese and American fine art papers.
This print, Pop Star, from a collection by Tom Everhart, is being
pulled from a gorgeous Marinoni Voirin flatbed press. S2 estimates
there are seven of these machines left in the world, and they are
the proud owners of five of them.
Because S2 uses antique flatbed presses, colour is printed with maximum
pigment saturation, many times more than any modern press could ever
possibly hope to achieve. This gives the art a permanency of brilliance
which has proven itself over the centuries.
are the same machines used in
the legendary 19 th and early 20 th Century ateliers of Paris to produce original
works of lithographic multiple fine art by great masters such as Alphonse Mucha,
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Henri
Matisse, Alexander Calder and many more.
The Chromist has already noted what colours will be used, so the
Master Printer mixes colours here based on predetermined decisions.
Each colour is matched by eye and mixed by hand to achieve the desired transparency
or opacity, as well as the rich tones that can come from using pure pigments.
Each colour is printed singly from colour that is mixed by hand, layering one
colour atop the next to achieve a rich vibrancy in the colour combinations.
When art is printed commercially,
it is generally broken down into 4 prime colours, which are then
printed uniformly to quickly achieve a moderate range of colours.
However, the commercial process was born of the need to get printing
done as quickly and cheaply as possible. Photolitho Fusion, at
the opposite end of the spectrum, is a wholly unique printing process
for three reasons: the creation of plates, the mixture of inks
to achieve the finished product, and the uniqueness of the presses
from which the prints are pulled. The process involves using plates
that are created from colour separations and are then altered by
hand using several techniques. It is this combination of photographically
sourced material and hand-manipulated plates had makes our Photolitho
Fusion plates unique.