As you go through the rooms of the printing workshop - Imagerie d’Épinal, you have the opportunity to see machines that at one time were at the forefront of technology. Step by step advances in machinery allowed them to evolve and therefore reduced the harsh working conditions as well as making the company more profitable.
Being the last one in France and Europe, the printing workshop - Imagerie d’Épinal is a fantastic witness to history through its collections. France previously had dozens of printing workshops each of which had their special features.
The printing workshop - Imagerie d’Épinal was able to establish itself and prevail thanks to its permanent capacity to modernise its production using the latest techniques and technologies of its time. The competition was tough and they had to know how to stand out and innovate in order to continue growing.
This tradition led the company to maintain a continuous activity while being part of its time, even after experiencing uncertainties with regards to its economic situation. The printing workshop - Imagery has always remained a private company.
In the 18th Century
In 1796, print was engraved on a wooden board. A hand press, called Gutenberg, was used for printing. The colourist then applied the different colours to the stencil, using round brushes. With the appearance of lithography, in 1850, artists had more possibilities at their disposal to express their talent. This was the appearance of the frivolous prints.
Designers started publishing large boards. Among these illustrators were Charles Pinot, Legros, Phosty and Chauffour.
In the 19th Century
In 1880 the first advertising flyers were born at the printing workshop. The company collaborated with Glucq, the famous Parisian publisher, for commercial, political and industrial advertising.
Nearly 15 million prints were sold by the workshop between 1870 and 1914. Some were even in English. Among the illustrators were Caran d'Ache, Rabier, Job, Galco and O'Galop, who was the famous illustrator for Bibendum de Michelin.
In the 20th Century
In 1918, sales started falling because of the invention of the media. The population became educated and read more and more. The heirs of Jean-Charles Pellerin tried to preserve the techniques and skills despite sales constantly decreasing. Tardi and Fred worked with them but despite all their efforts, they were forced to file for bankruptcy in 1984.
In the early 80's, in 1984 to be precise, five young business leaders from the Vosges formed a company to save and develop the heritage which the printing workshop - Imagerie represented. They maintained the traditional skills and adapted the production of the prints to modern printing techniques. An eco-museum was created. It welcomed more than 200,000 visitors on site every year.
In the 21th Century
The printing workshop in Épinal gradually ensured the collaboration of ten contemporary artists, each with their particularity. The first was Antonio GACIA, who was then joined by Jean-Paul MARCHAL, Isabel YUNG, Clair ARTHUR, Guillaume ROUSSEL, Olivier CLAUDON, Patrick FRANCE, Sidonie HOLLARD, Thierry DESAILLY and finally Anne LOGEAIS. New prints have been created and depict fairy tales, legends, news articles, environment, events, music, sports, leisure, love and poetry. Moreover, the new prints include famous people such as General De Gaulle, President François Mitterrand and Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II, Abbé Pierre, the musician Rostropovitch, the sportsman Zinedine Zidane and most recently the movie star Brigitte Bardot.
The company took another turn in 2014 when two buyers decided to create new elements to boost the printing workshop - Imagerie. The more recent creations are the illustrations.