|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data
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George Baxter was born in Lewes, Sussex. His father was a
publisher and bookseller, and Baxter worked in his the business with
his father and learned woodcut printing and then devised an advanced
method of color printing, with many more colors than previously used
and application with machine rather than by hand. The
printing by machinery occurred, beginning 1828, through his
father-in-law, Robert Harrild, a manufacturer of printing machinery who
"was to assist his new son-in-law many times in his life, both
financially and with loans and gifts of equipment."
In 1828, Baxter created his first color print - Butterflies,
very few copies exist. This print was followed in 1834 by a
primitive seeming (by today's standards) of a frontispiece to a book, Mudie's British Birds.
The next year, Baxter, having made improvements, applied for a pattent,
and that process involved a first time steel key plate printing "which
gave the black outline and all the intricate detail and shading, then
he would apply up to 20 different blocks made from either wood, copper
or zinc - one for each color he wanted to apply. Each block had to
align perfectly." This keyplate made all the difference and gave his
images a sharp quality never before achieved."
Baxter was distinguished from other printers for spending many hours on
his prints, engraving his own plates, and being a perfectionist about
the results. He used only the best materials and mixed his own
color inks, which were oil based. With each application, using
hand operated printing presses, he applied wet paper to the inked key
plate and then allowed a thorough drying. This process was
repeated over and over, with the paper re-dampened so it could be
expanded to its original size to receive the next colored key
plate. When finished he applied a gloss.
Most of his early work was book illustrations of subjects including
natural history, poetry and religion. Then he realized that a
buyer's market of individuals existed. Among his customers was
Prince Albert, which resulted in Baxter being invited to attend and
then draw the coronation of Queen Victoria. He also drew
'on-the-spot' christening of the Prince of Wales, and his watercolor
drawing was exhibited at the Royal Academy, but was not made into a
In addition to these exclusive commissions, George Baxter created
images that became prints for children's books, music sheets,
handkerchief and needle boxes and playing cards. He became so
notable that e received an "honourable mention for printing at the
Great Exhibition and later received Gold Medals from the Emperor of
Austria in 1852, at the New York Exhibition 1853, The Paris Exhibition
1855 and from the King of Sweden in 1857. Between 1834 and 1860 he
issued approximately 400 different prints."
However, his perfectionist methods meant he worked very slowly and was
often behind in meeting deadlines. Also, he was not a very acute
businessperson. In 1860, he became insolvent and had to sell his
plant and auctioned off his stock of prints, numbering 141,106.
By 1865, he was bankrupt, and two years later he died from injuries in a horse-drawn carriage accident.
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