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Juniata Art Museum Exhibits 19th Century Color Prints

(Posted April 7, 2008)

"Puss Napping," a color print by George Baxter, is one of the works on display at the Juniata Museum of Art.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The color prints produced by George Baxter, a British printmaker and artist who revolutionized the printmaking process and made art more accessible to the mass market, opened fine art to the homes of ordinary people. The Juniata College Museum of Art has created from its permanent collection the exhibit "The Color Prints of George Baxter" which opens Thursday, April 17 and runs through Sept. 8.

There will be an opening reception at the museum at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, April 17.

George Baxter, born in 1804, was trained as a lithographer and engraver. He moved to London from his native Lewes in 1827 and started an engraving business where he illustrated books and other publications. He originally worked in black and white prints, but he started experimenting with color printing shortly after opening his business.

Baxter's first color prints were simple pieces done for books. Over time, Baxter developed a complicated color printing process that required a separate engraving block for every color found in the print. Every engraving block had to be aligned meticulously. Typically Baxter could use up to 20 separate engraving blocks to create a single print.

In addition, Baxter went beyond using printing inks for his artworks and developed his technique to use oil-based inks that would give the prints the look of an oil painting at a fraction of the price. Baxter's method opened art to the middle classes. The oil prints allowed people to hang pictures in their homes, just like the oil paintings hung in the upper-class estates of England's elites.

Baxter's method opened art to the middle classes. The oil prints allowed people to hang pictures in their homes, just like the oil paintings hung in the upper-class estates of England's elites.

Baxter's work includes many different styles of art and illustration, including portraits, landscapes, coronation prints, "missionary prints" (prints showing scenes of missionary work in far-flung parts of the world, and illustrations used on playing cards, music sheets, needle boxes and other packaging.

The process Baxter used to create the prints was very labor intensive. At the height of his popularity, he was in serious financial trouble because of the complexity of the printing technique. Toward the end of his career, Baxter simplified his process and produced cheaper and more commercial images for needle boxes and other product packages.

Throughout his career, Baxter's business was plagued by imitators and forgers. Financial problems forced him to close his business in 1860. Baxter died in 1867.

The Juniata College Museum of Art is located in historic Carnegie Hall at 17th and Moore streets in Huntingdon. Museum hours until May 1 are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Museum hours starting May 1 are Wednesday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. For more information, please call the museum at (814) 641-3505, or visit the Juniata College Web site at http://www.juniata.edu/museum.



Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.