- Relief printing
- Intaglio and planographic printing
- Color printing
- Bits and pieces
- Early photography in silver
- Non-silver processes
- Modern photography
- Color notes
- Color photography
- Photography in ink: relief and intaglio printing
- Photography in ink: planographic printing
- Digital processes
- Where do we go from here?
Detail of Chromolithograph. Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. Panel from The Ghent Altarpiece. c. 1432 (Printed by Storch & Kramer, 1877). 15 3/8 x 5 1/8" (39 x 13 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Richard Benson.
Chromolithography reached an extraordinary level of complexity. This picture reproduces one of the four lower side-panels from Hubert and Jan van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece of 1432. The full panel, is 15½ inches (39 cm) high in the reproduction. In details we can see the delicate stippling that has been used to generate the appearance of many colors and tonal variations. The stippling is far finer in the heads of the crusaders than in the rest of the picture, as though the human being deserved more care in the reproduction than did the flora and fauna. There was no photomechanical method allowing the printer to draw large and then print smaller. I have long since given up trying to figure out how many colors were printed in this reproduction. At least eight stones were used and perhaps many more.
Chromolithograph. Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. Panel from The Ghent Altarpiece. c. 1432 (Printed by Storch & Kramer, 1877). 15 3/8 x 5 1/8" (39 x 13 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Richard Benson.
The color separations have nothing to do with the scientifically based separations used today for “process” color printing. Instead the separator has chosen the key colors in the picture, drawn separations for those, and used stippling to make blends for intermediate colors and tones. Like Japanese woodblock prints, this picture shows an astonishing degree of technical skill. In both cases the printers were making a copy—their job was strictly to reproduce a piece of original art, without embellishing or altering it at all. In the case of the chromolithograph the printer must have used the original painting itself, or some hand-painted copy of it, as a guide. For the Japanese woodblock, the artist’s painting, and perhaps even the artist himself, were nearby to direct the work. In both cases there was no room for expression on the part of the printer, beyond the goal of being completely invisible for the sake of the job at hand.