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In 1798, Aois Senefelder invented the printmaking process of lithography, a chemical printing process on limestone plates. In 1855, Alphonse Louis Poitevin combined lithography and photography by inventing the photolithography process, which makes a lithographic printing plate by photographic means.

Photolithography involves photographically transferring images to a matrix (usually an aluminum plate) and then printing by hand. The process shares some fundamental principles with photography, most importantly the exposure to light that makes the pattern in the etching resist possible.

Though the process was created centuries ago, photolithography has continued to be an important printmaking process for many artists. Barbara Kruger, one of the most well-known and influential artists of the late 20th century, created many politically and socially critical works that incorporated photolithography. Her works can now be seen in museum collections such as New York's Museum of Modern Art. Photolithography is still used by artists today, including Jeff Koons, possibly the most popular contemporary artist to employ the process.

Quick Facts

  • Barbara Kruger's "Untitled (Our Prices are Insane)," a photolithograph silkscreen on vinyl, sold at Christie's New York in March 2015 for $502,000
  • Jeff Koons' photolithograph "Stacked" sold at Christie's New York for $4,375 on July 16, 2013
  • The French printers Alfred Lemercier and Alphonse Poitevin first experimented with photolithography after the discovery of the halftone process

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