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Iconic Mourlot Press Lithograph Suite


Featured artists include: Chagall, PicassoMiró, Beaudin, Esteve, Matisse, Guiramand, Florsheim, Cathelin, Brasilier, Brianchon, Cocteau, Minaux, Jenkins, Calder, Kito, Giacometti, and Manessier.

Original Lithographs from the show "Prints from the Mourlot Press." Exhibition Sponsored by the French Embassy. Circulated by the Traveling Exhibition Service of the National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution.

First Edition on Velin d’Arches.

Published by Fernand Mourlot and Jean Adhemar in Paris, 1964.

“Fernand Mourlot has long been the acknowledged master printer of France in every field, from lithographs to fine books to posters. The unfailing quality of his work commands the respect of museums, collectors, and most important of all, the artists themselves. Every product of his workshop bears the mark of Mourlot’s discipline and craft and can truly be called an ideal collaboration between artist and artisan... The result of years of thoughtful planning, this special exhibition presents an accurate portrait of the Mourlot Press. We are greatly indebted to Fernand Mourlot, who made the selection, supervised the production of the catalogue, and gave endless time and energy to the details of preparation.” 

- S. Dillon Ripley
Smithsonian Institute


For onwards of 152 years, Fernand Mourlot has been synonymous with the resurgence of lithography – a process which under his influence, attracted the greatest artistic masters of our time. The medium provided a new avenue of expression, a new realm of possibilities for the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Miró, Braque, Dubuffet, Léger, and Giacometti to enrich their own work as well as fine art in general. Under the guidance of Mourlot, modern lithography developed a personality and discovered a future.

With a lithograph printshop on the rue Chabrol, one of the most popular neighborhoods in East Paris, the studio focused largely on commercial work and theater and cabaret posters. While Mourlot already had a name in printing before the outbreak of the First World War, it wasn’t until the Delacroix Exhibition in 1930 that one of the most important features of Fernand Mourlot’s domain was revealed, the art poster. Per Mourlot’s ingenuity, the exhibition poster was prepared and produced as a work of art in its own right for the first time.

In addition, Mourlot cultivated the lithograph as a painter’s medium. Initially limited to illustration, the lithograph was invented by Aloys Senefelder at the end of the 18th century. Although immediately accepted in the highest critic’s circles, the medium did not flourish until its adaptation by Cheret, Lautrec, Bonnard, and Vuillard who found a unique form of expression in its’ modern technique and bold colors. Fernand Mourlot identified this niche and employed its evident popularity by inviting artists to work directly on the stone, as if creating a poster. The first painters to create lithographs at the Mourlot Frères studio were Vlaminck and Utrillo, and for many years they would be the only ones.  Further, he experimented with lithographic inks and colors, carefully dosing the varnishes and essences, and analyzing the resistance of the resulting tones to the effect of light.

In 1937, the studio created two posters (based on paintings by Matisse and Bonnard) for the Maitres de l’Art indépendant exhibition at the Petit Palais. The posters were of such excellent quality that it was clear they had attained the height of printing mastery. In the same year, the studio began a fruitful collaboration with the editor Tériade, founder of the legendary review Verve. It was then that Mourlot assisted Matisse, Braque, Bonnard, Rouault and Miró in the creation of important lithographs for the six editions after the Second World War.

"Among all the different techniques for illustrating text, the lithograph is perhaps the one that best complements poetry." - Paul Valéry

While some of the most beautiful art books by modern painters were produced on the rue Chabrol; the lithograph would remain an art form for initiates, not reaching its full embodiment until after the liberation.

In 1945, Pablo Picasso walked into the Mourlot studio. With his graphic genius and prodigious inventiveness, Picasso proceeded to lend a new dimension to the lithographic process as well as his own art. “He came like he was going to battle,” Mourlot remarked, a battle that would last four months and be repeated at different points during the next several years. A corner of the studio became Picasso’s private domain and there he created nearly four hundred lithographs between 1945 and 1969. Bolstered by the press-operators Tutins and Célestin, he worked mercilessly, inventing the most complex and extravagant techniques, the inherent difficulties of which were dissolved in the man’s customary brio. Such display of artistic liberty from this period can be seen in “La Colombe de la Paix.”