THE BAXTER PROCESS: First Commercial Colour Printing Process

GEORGE BAXTER (1804-1867)
ABRAHAM LE BLOND (1819-1894) : JOSEPH KRONHEIM (1810-1896)

George Baxter lived and worked in London and is credited with inventing the first commercially viable printing process using colour, known as THE BAXTER PROCESS. Colour Printing had been invented in China, (like so many things!), centuries before but it was until the early 1800s that a Yorkshire man, George Savage, revived the idea . It was on Savage’s work that the established artist and printer, Londoner George Baxter, went onto experiment with colour printing by means of utilizing woodblocks in 1828. By 1834, the year the Act of Parliament was passed to establish the Colony of South Australia, Baxter’s experiments bore commercial fruit. The Baxter process allowed the printer to produce picture in oil colours that was clear and distinct. An image was engraved onto a metal plate, then Baxter 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 carry out the idea of a completely coloured picture printed on a hand press. The picture was built up tint by tint, much like the stages of a painting, and the work was slow. Between 10 to 20 printings to achieve one image was required. Many were touched up by hand. In 1835 he patented the process. His process was superseded later that century by chromolithography (1870’s) This popular art mirrored the taste and sentiment of the early Victorian Era. Unfortunately the process was more an artistic success than a commercial on as Baxter was constantly in debt. In 1865 he was declared Bankrupt. On January 11, 1867 Baxter died as a result of injuries from an omnibus accident. After his death his prints were published as Baxter Prints by Vincent Day Brookes & Son and as their own by Le Blond & Co., his licensees.

Abraham Le Blond of Le Blond & Co. worked under Baxter's license as of 1849, printing in Baxter's manner until 1867, when 66 sets of Baxter's own plates and blocks came into Le Blonds' hands, and he reprinted from them. Hence there are two groups of Le Blond nineteenth century prints, those which are Le Blonds' own, about thirty-two in number, mostly ovals, and those printed from Baxter's plates and blocks. After 1868, he printed what are known as Le Blond Baxter's. The Le Blond's Regal series was produced to reflect the large demand for images of the Royal family. Scene At Windsor Castle and the Whole of the Royal Family is probably the first of the works produced by Le Blond & Co under their licence, and it was taken from a drawing by Edward Wells. Le Blond at his best is exceptional. Le Blond's earlier prints of the Royal Family are beautiful pieces of execution, and are well worth trying to obtain.

Joseph Kronheim ~ Kronheim & Co. Kronheim was born in Magdeburg, Germany on 26th October 1810. He moved to Edinburgh, via Paris, when he was 22 before becoming established at 32 Paternoster Row, London around 1846. In 1850 Kronheim acquired a license to operate the Baxter process developed by George Baxter (1804-67). Kronheim found the Baxter process very time consuming and adapted the process to use zinc blocks instead of woodblocks. This, however, resulted in a flatter finish. He then returned to lithography for a short time, but soon returned to printing by the Baxter process. Oscar Frauenknecht acquired a stake in the business in 1852 and it is said that the firm had produced over 1000 different subjects using the Baxter process by 1854. They also produced a great number of prints for the Paris Exhibition in 1855. By the end of the exhibition Kronheim sold his share of the business to Frauenknecht and retired to German. Kronheim's retirement did not last long and he was soon to be found trying to set up a printing business in America. These exploits were also short lived, and he rejoined Frauenknecht and his old firm, Kronheim & Co. in London, although this time, not as a partner. The firm continued to expand, opening offices in Manchester and Glasgow. In 1875 the firm stopped using the Baxter process, having installed steam litho machines. Kronheim retired again in 1887 and died in Berlin in 1896 aged 85 years.