Charbonnel's history

The history of printmaking started in Germany at the end of the 14th century with wood-cutting. The wood surface was covered with soot. A sheet of paper on top, and by applying pressure an image was created of the woodcut.

The first copper engravings appeared round 1430 by Schongauer; painter and son of a goldsmith in Colmar (France). The art of engraving is possibly related with the work of goldsmiths in this part of the world. These craftsmen brushed sulphur compounds (niello-powder) into engraved silver plates, to enhance the contrast.

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was a master in etching. This technique is coming up in the 16th century. Intaglio allows the work of great painters, like Raphael and Rubens to be reproduced. Intaglio becomes a reproductive art form, and will stay this until in 1839 photography was invented.

The coloured woodcut was invented in Germany in the 16th century. Italy continued this tradition with Ugo Da Carpi, who invented the monochrome gravure or monotype. These consisted of two or three different tones of the same colour. The white of the paper was used as highlights.

Jacques Callot (1592-1635) introduced intaglio in France. He was a printmaker and never painted. He found work at four different courts in three countries as an illustrator.


In this period in history the art of printmaking became an object of trade and power. Louis XIV installed a royal workshop, where printmaking was used to contribute to the splendour of the king. In the 17th century the colourengraving emerged, as well as aquatint and mezzotint.

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) started making prints after his fiftiest birthday. He used printmaking especially as a reproduction technique to reach a large public.

In the 18th century prints became of importance as house decoration and in the same time the fashion print developed.

The arrival of photograpgy and photomechanical processes in the 19th century were a great challenge for the role of printmaking. In this difficult period in time François Charbonnel, chemist and pharmacist, started production of "inks for intaglio and lithographic varnishes". Many artists regard in that period printmaking as an important medium for artistical expression. Impressionists like Pissaro, Degas, Manet en Renoir make prints that are printed by Leblanc in het studio at rue St-]acques. Leblanc was in that time the most important customer of Charbonnel.

The beginning of the 20th century was a flourtishing period for printmaking. Gauguin (1848-1903) made manu woodcuts and monotypes. Braque and Picasso made many dry-points. Printmaking generalised and many workshops emerged. Charbonnel supplied the ink and installed also complete workshops. Paris became the capital of printmaking.

This period lasted thirty years. A new competitor showed up; being even a greater threat than photography; offset.

Printmaking suffered a new blow. Many studios changed to offset and other just seized to exist. The art of relief printing resumed as a specific art form of the Paris school just after the second world war. The studios in Paris acquired form the beginning of the century international recognition because many artistical developments happened in France. Paris attracted printmakers and lithographers form the whole world:: Dali, Miró, Chagall, Max Ernst, Paul Klee etc.

Charbonnel continued cooperation with these studios and adapted product development to the needs of the artists.


Between 1960 and 1980 printmaking prospered, but around the 1980's economic climate became more difficult which had its impact on the art world.

In 1989 Charbonnel was talken over by Lefranc & Bourgeois, another producer of artist supplies. Production was transferred from Paris to Lemans, but the production process did not change.