You're probably familiar with the names of great artists such as Picasso, Chagall and Matisse. But you might not have heard of the man who was actually responsible for printing a large number of their works - and a significant proportion of the work that hangs in the Hidden galleries. In the 1920s Fernand Mourlot,
a Parisien who inherited a printing business specialising in wine labels, transformed the production of artists' prints, allowing their work to be distributed more widely than any other aritsts preceding them.
Mourlot, who himself had trained as an artist in Paris, created the world's leading fine art print studio, tirelessly experimenting with colour, varnishes and inks, to translate a functional, commercial medium into one that was suitable for painters.
Lithograph was invented in 1796 by German playwright Alois Senefelder. Named after the Greek word for stone, 'lithos', ,and mark, 'graphein', the process centres around the immiscibility of oil and water. A slab of limestone (ideally from Bavaria) is drawn upon using a greasy substance, while ink adheres
to the oily residue left on the plate, enabling images to be printed.
He went on to print exhibition posters for some of the century's greatest artists, and by the late thirties, Mourlot's work was in demand across the world. The turning point for Mourlot was in 1923, when the studio won a contract to produce an original poster to promote the French Modern Art exhibition in Copehnagen.
In 1945, Braque and Matisse introduced Pablo Picasso to Mourlot and Picasso soon dedicated himself to lithography, visitng the Mourlot sutdios for up to four months at a time. Mourlto even dedicated a workshop space to the artist. Their friendship and artistic collaboration spanned three
decades and produced over 400 original graphic images and editions.
Now based in New York, Mourlot Editions continues to be run by the Mourlot family. The works and histories of his grandfather Fernand, and father Jacques, are displated by Eric Mourlot who continues to celebrate the medium of lithography.