Baxterotype

14 December 2010 § Leave a comment

Dutch: Baxterotypie

The term comes from the English printer and artist George Baxter (1804-1867). George Baxter is famous for having developed a method of printing in full colour. In total he made 377 prints. Only 15 of these were, including his prints of the Cartoons, so-called Baxterotypes. They were printed in shades of brown and aimed to simulate photographs. He first published some in the 1850s. The name echoes the term Daguerreotype, the earliest photographic process. Daguerreotype was named after Daguerre and so Baxter deemed it proper that his printing technique carried his name. He used it for chiaroscuro prints that he made with an intaglio key plate and sepia tone from a single wood block. So it was a combination of intaglio and relief printing.

Baxter’s career wasn’t going all that well. The Frenchmen Daguerre was making a name for himself with his photographs in sepia, the aforementioned daguerreotype. To counter this Baxter produced his baxterotype prints. He evidently decided that religious studies would be the most appropriate subjects for this medium and published his baxterotype of the famous Raphael cartoons. Of course when seeking a subject for his religious baxterotypes, it didn’t hurt that Prince Albert had become personally engaged in the study of Raphael and his works.

The Crucifixion, 1855

Baxter says in an advertisement: “This process possesses great advantage over, photography or collotype, in the certainty of each copy being equal in quality, every one of them being a complete facsimile of the first impression.” None of the baxterotypes were printed by Baxter in colours. The Raphael cartoons often seen in this way are by other printers.

The difference between a baxterotype and a sepia print is that whilst the former were sold in sepia only and never in colours, the latter were sold both in sepia and colours.

Stannard, who lived in the same century, explains that baxterotype  in not an invention but rather an adaptation of the Baxter process, and is not a bad imitation of a class of photographs which it is designed to imitate. It is analogue to the Baxter process with this exception, that in place of printing a variety of “colours” from wood blocks; he only prints a few shades of a definite “tint”, afterwards completing with a copper-plate in aquatint etc. The print is afterwards varnished, and when mounted bears the above title.

Explanation of Baxter Process:

Baxter wanted to improve the art of block printing when the possibility of combining the use of metals, such as brass or zinc, occurred to him (as indeed they had been used in Bologna as early as 1540 for chiaro-scuro). And thus he printed all the local colours from separate blocks, by crossing and recrossing their tints, fixing the whole by a final impress in aquatint, stipple, mezzotint etc. from copper or steel plates, in some dark neutral colour. He would touch up some minor details by the hand of colourers.

Primary Sources:

Stannard, William John. The Art Exemplar: A Guide to Distinguish one Print from Another. 1859. Microfilm.

Secondary Sources:

Courtney, Charles Thomas. George Baxter, the Picture Printer. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1924.

Gascoigne, B. How to identify prints: a complete guide to manual and mechanical processes from woodcut to inkjet. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.

Mitzman, Max E. George Baxter and the Baxter Prints. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1978.

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