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What Is an Oleograph? (Understanding Oleographs & the Oleographic Process in 2023)

What Do You Mean by Oleograph?

Have you ever heard of oleograph prints?

Oleographs are a unique form of art that has been around for centuries and have deep historical roots.

This article will explain what oleograph printing is in simple English!

What Is the Difference Between Lithograph and Oleograph?

An oleograph is often defined as a lithograph textured to resemble an oil painting.



What the heck is a lithograph?

Let’s find out!

How Are Lithographs Made?

Lithograph is a term that originates from the Greek words for “stone” and “to write”.

This particular printing technique works on the fact that water and grease repel each other.

Watch the video below to see what is a lithograph and how it’s made (or keep reading below).

How Lithographs Are Made

In a nutshell, a lithograph is a printing technique that requires an artist to first draw their artwork on a prepared surface like a bavarian limestone (or a special kind of textured aluminum) with a greasy crayon, pencil, or another similar tool.

The drawing is then covered with a thin layer of water and then quickly applied with ink. When ink is applied to the stone, it sticks to the grease but is repelled by areas where there’s only water present.

After some chemical processing, the stone is placed in a press and the drawing is transferred onto a piece of paper (or another material), creating a mirrored picture.

The artist can create as many hand-printed copies of the same original artwork as he or she wants.

For a more detailed look at how lithographs are made and what a lithograph looks like, definitely check out the video above.

How Are Oleographs Made?

In essence, an oleograph print is a lithographic print that mimics the texture of an oil painting. It’s also a distinctive method for producing colorful prints.

As we saw earlier in this post, lithography involves printing with a single stone.

Oleography, on the other hand, involves the use of multiple stones, each dedicated to a specific color, and employs a layering technique where one color is printed on top of another. (Up to 30 separate stones were used per print!)

Typically, the oleographic print is placed onto canvas and then varnish is usually added to mimic the look of an oil painting.

You can see a collection of oleographs on Etsy.

History of Oleographs

Oleograph is a term that is used to describe a type of art print created during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Oleographs were usually produced using the chromolithography printing process, which was an inexpensive form of color printing. This allowed many prints to be made at once, creating large numbers of these beautiful works of art.

The name oleograph comes from the Latin word “oleo” which means “oil”, referring to the use of oil-based inks in the chromolithography process. This type of printing gave oleographs a unique appearance with brilliant colors and intricate details. They also had a glossy quality compared to other forms of prints that were available at the time.

Oleographs typically depicted popular culture scenes such as rural landscapes and portraits of famous figures from literature or history.

From religious pieces to highly detailed works of art, oleographs come in many different forms, shapes, and sizes. It’s an interesting subject that has captivated the attention of many scholars and historians for centuries.

Are Chromolithographs and Oleographs the Same Thing?

No, chromolithographs and oleographs are not the same thing.

Chromolithographs are prints made using the chromolithography printing process, which involves the use of multiple stones, each of which is inked with a different color, to create a colorful image.

On the other hand, oleographs are prints made using the oleography printing process, which involves the use of oil-based inks to create a textured, three-dimensional effect.

While both chromolithographs and oleographs are types of prints, they are created using different techniques and produce different visual effects.

For more information on chromolithographs, check out my post: What Is a Chromolithograph?

How Can You Tell It’s an Oleograph?

To tell if a piece of art is an oleograph, you can look for certain characteristics that are distinctive to this type of print. These may include:

Texture: An oleograph has a texture that is similar to that of an oil painting, with visible brushstrokes and impasto. (In the context of oleographs, the term impasto refers to the appearance of a raised and textured surface, simulating the look of a painted surface rather than a flat print.)

Printing technique: The oleograph technique is typically made using a chromolithographic printing process, which involves layering inks to create a multicolored print.

Quality: Oleographs are often produced in high quality, with vibrant colors and intricate details, making them appear similar to original oil paintings.

Age: Oleographs were most popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so if the piece is of that age, it’s more likely to be an oleograph.

By examining these characteristics, you should be able to determine if a piece of art is an oleograph or not. However, it’s important to note that not all oleographs will have all of these features, so a combination of factors should be considered when making this determination.

Also, oleographs are often mistaken for oil paintings because of their texture and because they’re printed on canvas. It also looks even more like an oil painting as it ages and the varnish starts to yellow.

If the oleograph is very well done, you’ll often need to find a professional, like a conservator-restorer, to see if the artwork is an oil painting or an oleograph. (A conservator-restorer is a person who’s responsible for the preservation of artistic artifacts.)

Summary: Oleograph Meaning

Here is a quick definition of an oleograph:

Oleography is a printing method that uses the repulsion of water and grease.

An oleograph is a type of lithograph, specifically a multicolor print created by layering inks by using multiple stones. It’s often made to imitate an oil painting by printing it on canvas and adding varnish (sometimes called an oleograph painting).

To determine if a piece of art is an oleograph, one can look for textured brushstrokes and impasto, a layering of inks, vibrant colors and intricate details, and its age.

Since oleographs are often mistaken for oil paintings due to their texture, a professional may be needed to determine if it’s an oleograph or an oil painting.