Steendrukmuseum in Valkenswaard. Part I

On the occasion of the National Museum Day in country we decided to go to a museum of lithography (=”writing on stone”, steendruk in Dutch), in a small town of Valkenswaard. This is an entrance to the museum (and  I regret I didn’t take more pictures back then, it has a very interesting bricklaying). We’ve been to this town many times, but weren’t even aware such museum exists. It’s proven to be a very interesting visit indeed!

The museum is really very small, just a couple of halls, but it’s filled with all sort of things related to lithography, including the stones themselves, the machines, and of course the lithographs. To my surprise, I realized that I completely misunderstood the method of lithography, I thought it’s comparable to etching, or woodcutting, when the master had to carve the stone surface with the cutters of sort, fill them with ink, and thus produce the lithographs.

As it happened to be (and it’s well explained in the museum, albeit only in Dutch, lithography is basically based on ‘drawing on fat’; that’s how the process is explained in a proper English:

“The stone was treated with a mixture of acid and gum arabic, etching the portions of the stone which were not protected by the grease-based image. When the stone was subsequently moistened, these etched areas retained water; an oil-based ink could then be applied and would be repelled by the water, sticking only to the original drawing. The ink would finally be transferred to a blank paper sheet, producing a printed page.” 


Collection of limestones with all sorts of pictures at the entrance to the museum:


The first presses were manual and fairly basic:


Later they start making more sophisticated presses; this is one is apparently the latest one, they stopped making better machines when switched to another methods:



We even saw a small demo of how this press works:


A couple of videos:





Some equipment looks totally magical now:




With many of the presented things you wouldn’t’ have a clue what they are for:



Because of this special day (and free admission), the museum was quite full, I am not sure it’s the case in any average day:


There were a lot of meta-lithography pieces,  showing the process of lithography itself, and how different it was in different times:





Apparently, the lithography workshops, and craft of lithography in general, were very widespread in this area of the Netherlands (we didn’t figure why), there are a lot of photos in the museum showing the local print-houses of the end of 19th century:





At some point the prints became multi-colorful, and lithography had been actively used in packaging design and in print advertising of those days:



It should have been a very sexy business back then, attracting a lot of creating people, I guess:



I can’t remember reading about this particular media, and what kind of massage it was providing:


Interesting to realize that a very cool&sexy business of advertising was once based on stone-pits and quarries (for me they’ve been associated with construction, or at least with sculpture, not with visual art):



A ‘stone-shelf’:



A few stones with images:






At the end we even saw the process of making the lithographs, using a manual press.




Such a simple press could have been placed in any house or studio, and at some point it became very popular among artists who could start their own small art (re)production:


This is a small ‘portable’ version of the press; ‘lithography on a move’:


The presses are all impressive, but there another side of the kitchen, so to say, when these drawings should be first made:


But this is, of course, is less specific to the lithography, and more relates to the visual arts in general:




The craft of lithography looked very ancient (though technically speaking it’s not true, the method was invented only in the very end of 18th century) and already outdated. It was interesting do discover, therefore, that the principles of lithography are widely used up until now, though their main application is currently in a very different industry:


Ironically, I’ve recently been to ASML, the Dutch manufacturer of semiconductor equipment, some of which is based on the principles of lithography,  and then in this museum I saw a small maquette of one of their modern lithography machines 🙂


PS: I will write a separate posting about the lithographs we saw there.










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