eorge Baxter (1804 - 1867), trained as a lithographer and engraver, developed a process to produce colour prints from blocks and plates using oil-based inks. His aim was to imitate oil painting and provide good, inexpensive prints for popular sale. He was the first printer to use oil-based inks successfully.

This popular art mirrored the taste and sentiment of the early Victorian period, and provided Victorians with the pictures and illustrated books which adorned their homes.

Unfortunately the process was much less a commercial than an artistic success, and Baxter was constantly in debt. In 1865 he became bankrupt. On January 11, 1867, Baxter died as the result of injuries received in an omnibus accident. After his death his prints were published as Baxter Prints by Vincent Brooks, Day & Son and as their own by Le Blond & Co., his licencees.

The Baxter Process

The Baxter process enabled the printer to produce a picture in oil colours that was clear, sharp and distinct. A picture was engraved onto a metal plate the lines of which were of varying strength in order to obtain gradations of light and shade. Baxter next used relief wood blocks (superimposed over each other) to put on his colours in order to complete the print. Baxter was the first to conceive and to carry out the idea of a completely coloured picture printed on a hand press. He was first to adopt the artistic principle of building up the picture, tint by tint, in a manner much like the stages of a painting and the work was slow. From ten to twenty separate printings for the various colours were required. Most of the prints were touched up by hand resulting in a rich thick colour print with glossy surface. Baxter obtained a patent for this process in 1835. His time-consuming process was superseded in the second half of the nineteenth century by chromolithography.

Baxter's Licensees

When Baxter fell on hard times, he sold licenses to use his patent process to several printers, one of whom was Le Blond and Company, another Kronheim & Co. Le Blond and Company was recognized as the most important of the Baxter licensees because its work was nearest to Baxter's in style and quality.


GEORGE BAXTER (1804-1867): A Bicentenary Exhibition of Prints and Illustrations
at the E. J. Pratt Library, Victoria University