Michael Posner Baxte was born in 1890 in the small town of Staroselje Belarus, Russia. For the first half of the 19th century it was a center of the Chabad movement of Hasidic Jews, but this group was gone by the middle of the 19th century. By the time the Baxte family immigrated to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish population numbered only on the hundreds. The native language of the Baxte family was Yiddish. It is likely that the death of Michael Baxte’s father triggered the family’s immigration. Three older brothers arrived in New York between 1903 and 1905. Michael and his mother, Rebecca, arrived in 1907. By 1910 Michael, his mother, and brother, Joseph, were living in New Orleans and may have spent some time on a Louisiana plantation. Around 1912, Michael Baxte returned to Europe to study the violin. In 1914 he, his mother, and Joseph moved to New York City.
Meanwhile, in Algeria, a talented young woman painter, Violette Mege, was making history. Since for the first time, a woman won the prestigious Beaux Art competition in Algeria. At first, the awards committee denied her the prize but, with French government intervention, Mege eventually prevailed. She won again 3 years later and, in 1916, used the scholarship to visit the United States of America. When Violette came to New York, she met Baxte, who was, by then, an accomplished violinist, teacher, and composer. Baxte’s compositions were performed at the Tokyo Imperial Theater, and in 1922 he was listed in the American Jewish Yearbook as one of the prominent members of the American Jewish community. As a music teacher he encouraged individual expression. Baxte stated, “No pupil should ever be forced into imitation of the teacher. Art is a personal experience, and the teacher’s truest aim must be to awaken this light of personality through the patient light of science.”
By 1920 Michael Baxte and Violette Mege were living together in Manhattan. Although they claimed to be living as husband and wife, it seems that their marriage did not become official until 1928. On their “unofficial” honeymoon around 1917, in Algiers, Baxte confided to her his ambition to paint. There and later in New Mexico where the wonderful steeped sunlight approximates the coloring of Algiers, she taught him his heart’s desire. He never had any other teacher. She never had any other pupil. For ten years she devoted all her time, energy, and ambition to teaching, encouraging, inspiring him. Then in 1928, their mutual strivings were rewarded, as his works were being chosen as one of the two winners in the Dudensing National Competition for American Painters. Out of 150 artists from across the country participated in the Dudensing, and Michael Posner Baxte and, Robert Fawcett, were the winners.
In his 1924 naturalization application, he indicated that he was sometimes known as “Michael Posner Baxte.” One of the witnesses to his application was Bernard Karfiol, a Jewish American artist. That’s when Michael may have decided to use the name Baxte for his art. Baxte, née Posner, received critical acclaim from art critics. In 1929, Lloyd Goodrich of The New York Times wrote, “Mr. Baxte has a way of choosing aspects of the world that are quite unhackneyed… He is an artist of considerable subtlety, not too strong perhaps, and sometimes a little uncertain, but always sensitive and interesting. One feels in each of his pictures an absorption in his subject and an individual manner of looking at it. He has a very attractive color sense, warm, sensuous, and unexpected, which seems natural and unforced.” A dozen years later another New York Times art critic, Howard Devree, commented, “Also at the Bonestell are paintings by Michael Baxte, who lays in his color with gusto and considerable acumen.”
During the 1930’s Baxte and his wife, Violet, lived in France and spent most of their time in Paris, where Baxte became part of the School of Paris and exhibited his artwork in government sponsored exhibitions including the Salon d' Automme, helping as well to organize an exhibition of American painters. When the World War II began, and Paris became unsafe Baxte and his wife relocated to Mexico where they continued to live and work. Baxte died in 1972 in Mexico.