Lithography was the first fundamentally new printing technology since the invention of relief printing in the 15th Century. Alois Senefelder invented it in Germany in 1798. He was a comedic playwright looking for a way to publish multiple copies of his works. Realizing the commercial possibilities of this technique, Senefelder patented it a year later in Munich. Within 20 years lithography appeared in England and the United States.
Although lithography enjoyed early commercial success as a leading method of printing books, magazines and newspapers, it took a while longer to be accepted as a legitimate art form. In the 19th and early 20th century many people saw it only as a less expensive means to own a work of art by a well-known painter. However many European artists began experimenting with lithography soon after its invention in 1798. They liked the spontaneous effect they could achieve by drawing directly on the printing surface. Some of these early masters included Eugene Delacroix, Pierre Bonnard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edvard Munch.
Today it has come to be seen as a well-respected art form with very unique expressive capabilities. Many artists combine lithography with other printmaking processes, such as silk-screen. Some leading lithographers of the 1900's included Marc Chagall, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to name only a few.