It was Jules Chéret, the ‘king of the poster’, whose advertisements raised colour lithography to the level of an art form.
His bright and colourful posters were a novelty in the previously grey streets of Paris.
Artists like Pierre Bonnard and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec were inspired by the technique’s aesthetic potential to produce artistic posters of their own, which they constructed from graphic silhouettes and patterns, bright expanses of colour, and decorative typography.
In his 1898 treatise, La Lithographie originale en couleurs, Mellerio praised the distinctive characteristics of the medium and laid down the requirements to be met by an artistic colour lithograph.
According to the critic, the fields of colour must remain separate as much as possible and be simple and light in tone, with areas of open paper between them.
The composition should be simple in conception and form a harmonious whole.
André Mellerio, La Lithographie originale en couleurs, Paris 1898
Phillip Dennis Cate et al., The Color Revolution. Color Lithography in France, 1890–1900, Santa Barbara 1970
Pat Gilmour (ed.), Lasting Impressions. Lithography as Art, Philadelphia 1988