Gems of the Crystal Palace No 1 – The Exterior painted by Buckley?
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1) The original painting of the Great Exhibition credited to CF Buckley (image courtesy of Martel Maides Auctions) BUT was it sketched by Baxter and 'just' coloured by Buckley? 2) An example of George Baxter's print of the Great Exhibition Exterior, this example slightly trimmed both sides to fit into Baxter rare book 'Gems of the Great Exhibition' 3) Baxter's 'Gems of The Crystal Palace No 1 - Exterior', was this after a sketch by Baxter and coloured by Buckley?
Some might know that Baxter’s Great Exhibition Exterior is taken from a painting by Charles Frederick Buckley but Baxter did not credit him. Baxter’s print was published just 27 days after the exhibition opened. There is no way that Buckley would allow his latest and very topical painting to be copied without full credit, if at all, so the conclusion must be that Baxter employed him to paint the scene. Buckley, a painter of some renown but not famous, must have been happy to take commissions, so this is not surprising.
It would be nice to think that Baxter painted every design, engraved every plate and cut every block but of course he didn’t as time would never allow. Perhaps he did in the early days but now he was publishing so many prints each year and at this point just embarking on his Great Exhibition series.
Buckley’s original painting came to light at Sotheby’s in November 2000 where it sold for £19,000 plus premium and surfaced again at Christies in Nov 2004 this time selling for £14,340 plus premium. The painting then came up for auction in July 2022 at Martel Maides in Guernsey with an estimate of £15-£20,000 but remained unsold. Other Buckley paintings have sold for thousands of pounds but the majority sell for the low hundreds, I purchased one very nice watercolour from 1868 for just £30. Therefore these prices for The Great Exhibition most definitely reflect the subject matter.
I am in process of writing an article about a copy of Baxter’s ‘Gems of The Crystal Palace No 1 – Exterior’ which had a very interesting labelled stuck to reverse. That article has turned into something a lot larger than I initially expected and once finished will appear in the next newsletter.
Whilst researching that I came across a small related snippet of information that could prove very interesting.
Routledge’s guide to the Crystal Palace and Park at Sydenham 1854 states:
“By an arrangement made with the directors, some beautiful views of portions of the present Crystal Palace, and of the more interesting of the courts, have been taken by Mr Baxter, coloured by Messrs Charles Buckley, Hind and other distinguished artists and they form part of a highly interesting collection of plates which the patentee exhibits.”
So it appears that somewhere there is a painting of one of Baxter’s Crystal Palace prints, my guess is that after his work on Baxter’s Great Exhibition Exterior it would more likely be the Gems No 1, Exterior view of the Crystal Palace that is coloured by Charles Buckley. Does it still exist?
The book states that the images ‘have been taken (drawn?) by Mr Baxter and coloured by …...’ showing that Baxter drew the image but left the colouring to an artist. This makes sense, we are lucky to know the whereabouts of some of Baxter’s original sketches and although a couple are part coloured all the rest are purely very detailed pencil sketches. One has numbered notes detailing the exact colours required in all the areas of the sketch. Sketching always was his passion so perhaps he realised colouring wasn’t his forte and others could do it better or perhaps, at this time, just needed to concentrate on other things?
That leads me to another thought. Could this mean that the Buckley painting of the Great Exhibition, shown above is actually drawn by Baxter and ‘just’ coloured by Buckley? The descriptions in the auction catalogue “watercolour over pencil heightened with bodycolour” (Sotheby’s) and “pencil, grey ink and watercolour with gum arabic, heightened with touches of bodycolour” (both Christies and Martel Maides) seem to infer that is very possibly correct. Buckley was mainly known as a watercolour artist which would normally mean working purely with watercolour and not over a sketched base.
So Buckley’s Great Exhibition could actually be drawn by Baxter himself?
Also that paintings of a number of views of the Crystal Palace drawn by Baxter and coloured by others including Buckley, could still exist?
Lastly who is Hind, the other artist credited as colouring Baxter’s sketches?