Portrait du missionnaire Robert Moffat
BAXTER, George

Portrait of the missionary Robert Moffat

Size : 27,6, x 22,6 cm
Color : Coloris original
Condition : Bon
Reference : 057

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Robert Moffat was a British missionary and Protestant who was a member of the London Missionary Society from 1816.

He worked mainly in South Africa with his wife, Mary Smith. In addition to his successes in conversion and preaching, the missionary was also responsible for the translation of the Bible into the Tswana language. Robert Moffat was also the father-in-law of the famous explorer, David Livingstone.

In this portrait by George Baxter, famous for his color printing process, Robert Moffat is depicted as a Victorian gentleman. In the background of this composition, the Bechuana chief addresses his parliament, gathered around him, to announce the arrival of the missionary to the community. By employing this aesthetic solution, George Baxter portrays Robert Moffat according to the classical conventions of Victorian portraiture while also representing him in situ. In addition to a copy of this work, the National Portrait Gallery in London also holds another version of this composition (*). In this one, Robert Moffat is clearly less idealized; he is shown with a beard and in more simple, worn clothes.

Baxtertype print. Upper right corner damaged.

(*) George Baxter, Portrait of Missionary Robert Moffat, ca. 1842, watercolor on paper, 27 x 23 cm, London, National Portrait Gallery.


Auguste Glardon, Robert Moffat apôtre des Béchuanas, Lausanne, G. Bridel, 1888, 110 p.

BAXTER, George

George Baxter (1804-1867) was an English artist and printer based in London. He is credited with the invention of commercially viable color printing.

He was the son of printer John Baxter, and at the age of 20 he helped with the illustration of books to be printed by his father. At the age of 23, Baxter became an apprentice to Samuel Williams, a wood engraver in London. In 1827, Baxter started his own printing company where he developed and experimented with a new method of printing in color. His first color print was Butterflies in 1834 and in 1835 he was granted Patent No. 6916 - Improvements in Producing Colored Steel Plate, Copper Plate and other Impressions with a term of fourteen years. 

Baxter's method of producing colored impressions combined relief and intaglio printing methods. A "key" plate was prepared, usually in steel, using a combination of etching, stippling, etching and aquatint. Baxter also appears to have used mezzo-tinto and lithography to create his key plate on occasion. The key plate provided the main lines of the image and much of the tone, light and shadow. It was usually printed in a neutral tone, such as light gray or terra cotta. Often, Baxter used more than one color to ink the plate - for example, to make the image go from blue in the sky, to buff in the middle distance, and to a darker color in the foreground; that is, to ink the plate in a dolly [2] [3]. Typically, Baxter used aquatint for landscapes and stippling to work on faces and figures[4].

Despite the excellence of his processes and the popularity of his prints, Baxter was never a commercial success. He went bankrupt in 1865.

[1] McLean 1963: 30
[2] Seeley 1924: 25
[3] Gascoigne 1986: Section 29
[4] Lewis 1928: 199