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Gustave Baumann

 (1881 - 1971)
Gustave Baumann was active/lived in New Mexico, California.  Gustave Baumann is known for wood cuts, occasional painting.

Gustave Baumann

Biography from the Archives of askART

Born in Madgeburg, Germany, Gustave Baumann is best known for prints made from his detailed hand-carved wood blocks.

His family emigrated to the United States when he was a child, and he grew up in Chicago.  He returned to Germany to study in Munich at the Kunstgewerbe Schule and then took further training at the Art Institute of Chicago.  He spent time in Indiana, and is much associated with the artists who gravitated to Brown County.  In that state, Bauman made woodblocks illustrating work by Indiana authors.

Baumann and several other artists decided to see first hand the reportedly light, clear air of New Mexico that they had been hearing about from other Chicago artists, and in 1918, he settled in Santa Fe where, for over fifty years, he participated in the art community.

He created colored wood blocks from which he made prints, and also became a carver of saints and marionettes, working the the Marionnette Theater, and carving his 'little people'.  He also did numerous paintings in bright colors.

His woodcut subjects are church figures, scenes of sacred Indian pictographs, and landscapes including the Grand Canyon.

During the 1930s, he was WPA co-ordinator for Santa Fe.

Peggy and Harold Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West

Biography from the Archives of askART
Gustave Baumann was born on June 27, 1881 in Magdeburg, Germany. Baumann came to the U.S. at age ten and settled in Chicago. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and later returned to his native land for further study at Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich. Traveling widely in the U.S., he was active in several artist colonies before settling in Santa Fe, NM in 1918. He made several trips to California resulting in eleven wood block prints of California scenes. Baumann died in Santa Fe on Oct. 8, 1971.

Exh:Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915  (gold medal); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1926 (prize).

Works Held : MM; Boston Museum; Art Institute of Chicago.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (Fielding, Mantle).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from The Owings Gallery
Gustave Baumann lived and worked in New Mexico for more than fifty years, and his views of the West provided subjects for the majority of his prints and the basis of his enduring reputation as an American artist. The landscape of the West and the culture and art of its native people influenced and molded his style as a printmaker.

Before his arrival in New Mexico, Baumann was a professional graphic designer and printmaker, trained and practicing in the European tradition. His art education in Chicago and Germany was quite conventional, and he was little influenced by the newest avant-garde styles. Rather it was the customs and techniques of Old World craftsmanship, and the traditions of German folk art that moved him.

He left Chicago in 1910 to move to a quieter corner of the world, Brown County, Indiana. His early woodcuts generally were narrative vignettes in which he often incorporated typography. By the 1910s these prints began to lose their illustrative bookishness as characteristics of the Art and Crafts movement gradually appeared and Baumann's images became more picturesque than anecdotal.

It was during his years in Indiana that Baumann developed his personal seal - the image of a human hand opened over the heart, a gesture meant to imply a heartfelt pledge or the symbol of giving - an appropriate symbol for a devoted craftsman who found ultimate fulfillment in working with his hands.

Baumann first arrived in New Mexico in 1918, intending to spend the summer in Taos visiting his good friends Walter Ufer and Victor Higgins. Overwhelmed by the country's natural beauty, the artist frantically filled his sketchbooks. He found that nearly every village alleyway provided an engaging image, and he felt free to give personal interpretation to his landscapes. After several weeks working in Taos, Baumann made the arduous car trip south to explore Santa Fe. "I became painfully aware that the summer was drawing to a close," Baumann remembered. "I had investigated the mountain and desert and all the fascinating corners of Taos, but learned too late that a palette and theories regarding color east of the Mississippi should all be tossed in the river as you cross the bridge. My summer's work looked very sad indeed. I felt I wanted another try at this obstreperous material."

He decided to settle in Santa Fe permanently. After settling into his new home, Baumann worked to capture in his prints the spirit and atmosphere of New Mexico. He frequented the nearby Bandelier National Monument in the Jemez Mountains west of Santa Fe, drawn by its magnificent natural beauty and fascinating archaeological sites. Baumann returned to the Frijoles Canyon over the years and interpreted their mysteries in many of his prints.

The artist selected landscapes that were unmistakably southwestern and used peculiar points of view to emphasize their vast scale. He employed a favorite device of dramatic shifts of light and color to enhance a sense of space, yet his palette remained fairly dim. Its softness even gives the sensation of blurred color that one experiences in the blinding bright sunshine, when the pupils close down tightly.

It was during this time in the Spring of 1919 that Baumann also made his first prints of the Indian pictographs at Frijoles Canyon - a theme that would continue throughout his career. The artist was stirred by their economy and emotional impact and discovered in their formal vocabulary a strong parallel with modern art. In the same year, Baumann made his first visit to the Grand Canyon. He was awestruck by its scale, its dramatic effects of atmosphere and light, and by its preternatural color. In the months following his return to Santa Fe, he made five vivid color woodcuts that reflect the impact of this experience.

In 1924, Baumann visited Arizona. In the arid brilliance of the Sonoran desert he found a distinctive ambience that he later captured in four woodcuts. Two of these focus on specific desert plants. In addition to an accurate representation of these common, exotic-looking plants, he strove to depict their austere native environment, using intense hues and exploiting paper color to suggest the sandy desert soil reflecting the sun's unremitting heat.

The following year, Baumann traveled to California. The woodcuts resulting from this trip suggest that he explored the Pacific Coast from Laguna Beach north to San Francisco Bay. To capture the sensations of bright light, silvery ocean reflections, and cool coastal breezes, the artist used a soft palette of pale colors. With these colors he often employed black to strengthen shadows and emphasize rugged, curvilinear forms.

The decade of the 1920s was a golden era for Gustave Baumann's color prints. He worked steadily with great commitment, producing as many as sixty color woodcuts during this period. This work sustained his reputation nationally. Baumann's prints of this period ranged widely in their imagery but generally were bright, boldly designed and recognizably western.

Baumann's prints of the 1920s were acquired by serious collectors and museums, but the foundation of his renown and financial success was in sales to middle-class customers who purchased one or two color prints to decorate the walls of their homes. This was an era of widespread and enduring popularity for the Arts and Crafts style in home furnishings.

The exceptional size and range of Baumann's woodcut production resulted from his working at printmaking as a full-time job. He was in the studio first thing almost every morning and he often worked late into the night. He undertook every stage of the process himself, never employing students or assistants in his studio. Generally the artist pulled a maximum of 125 impressions of each print, but he never produced an entire edition at once. He made woodcuts according to demand, producing impressions as they were needed for sale or exhibition. During printing he continuously tried to improve the look of his prints by adjusting colors, and even altered his designs by re-cutting, adding, or subtracting blocks within an edition.

After the 1930s it seems that Baumann no longer mounted ambitious sketching expeditions to gather new material. Although his prints reflect further travels in the West, through New Mexico and to Colorado, Texas and California, these landscapes tend to be the exception to the work of this period. Review of the dated prints suggests that generally he stayed closer to home, often reprinting from his repertoire of earlier blocks. Several of the prints from this period include florals and cozy domestic interiors reflective of Baumann's happy home-life with his wife and daughter.

During the last thirty years of his life, he averaged about one new print a year. During the 1960s, Baumann dabbled with abstraction in his prints. He had always maintained a good-natured respect for nonobjective art and his understanding of abstraction deepened with interest in Native American and children's art. Nevertheless, he found it nearly impossible to free his work of references to concrete visual experience. He made a handful of exploratory prints, such as Torrey Pine (1961) and Hidden Meaning (1962), but these efforts were diversions. He never seriously confronted the challenges and possibilities of abstract woodcuts.Baumann's prints always remained proudly oriented to craft.

The great achievement of his career was that he was able to delight people by the melding of his craftsman's skill with the sustained inspiration he drew from the beauty of nature and the venerable traditions of Native Americans, which he discovered and nourished in the American West during the years of his artistic maturity. Beyond the inarguable allure of his images and his obvious skill in rendering them, Baumann captured the quiet contemplation of solitude that increasingly came to characterize his life. It is this sensation that reverberates in his art. Most of Baumann's prints succeed in sharing with the viewer something of the comfortable contentment of the artist's own personality.

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery
Born June 27, 1881 in Magdeburg, Germany, Gustave Baumann came with his family to the United States when he was ten.  Soon after arriving in their new home of Chicago, Baumann's father left the family and Gustave was responsible for supporting the household.  At age sixteen, he began full-time work as an apprentice for an engraving house, while going to the Art Institute of Chicago at night to "get a little closer to art."  He worked next at an advertising studio, and by 1903 opened his own studio.  After saving one thousand dollars from his new business, Gustave gave half to his mother and left for Munich, Germany to attend the Kunstgewerbe Schule (School of Arts and Crafts).  He was interested in learning the bold new style of artwork being produced there.  That one-year experience turned out to be one of the most significant influences in his career.

Upon returning to Chicago in 1906, Baumann continued his career as a commercial artist while creating an abundance of intricate wood block prints which developed from opaque watercolor studies of regional landscape scenes.  He would then personally cut one block for each color in the scene and edit them until he was satisfied with the results.  He then printed editions of the images and sold them.  In 1909, Baumann produced his first limited edition (usually 125) color woodcuts and exhibited them at the Art Institute of Chicago.  This successful showing enabled him to move to a small town in Brown County, Indiana.  The work here became more picturesque.

It was also during his time in Indiana that he developed his personal seal, the image of a hand opened over the heart, which was his pledge to make his craftwork available to those who might enjoy it.  By that time he was exhibiting nationally and in the Paris Salon.  By 1915, he had won the Panama-Pacific International Exposition's printmaking award in San Francisco.

Baumann remained in Indiana until 1917 when he set out for the East coast and lived for a time in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.  He then headed for Taos, New Mexico to visit artist friends, Walter Ufer and Victor Higgins.  He intended to only visit Santa Fe, but ended up living there for over 50 years until his death in 1971.

While living in Santa Fe, he was very involved in the local community.  He carved over sixty elaborate puppets and created the "Marionette Theater" which still exists today.  During the 1930s, he was the WPA co-ordinator for Santa Fe.  He wrote and illustrated Frijoles Canyon Pictographs, which contained his woodcut images of the sacred Indian pictographs of northern New Mexico.  This was selected as one of the 50 best books of the year 1940.

He made several trips to California and created eleven wood block prints of California scenes.  Baumann's work seemed to share some kind of contentment with his own life with his viewers.

His work is in the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and many private collections.

1. Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, Peggy and Harold Samuels
2. Artists in California 1786-1940, Edan Hughes
3. Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art, Martin Krause and David Acton

Biography from Annex Galleries
Gustave Baumann was born in Germany in 1881.  His family immigrated to the United States in 1891, settling in Chicago.  At the age of 17, Baumann was working for a commercial engraving house while attending night classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Returning to Germany in 1905, Baumann enrolled in the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Munich where he studied wood carving and mastered the European technique of color wood block prints.

After a year in Munich, Baumann resettled in Chicago, supporting himself in the commercial art field while searching for a place to inspire his fine art.  In 1910, Brown County, Indiana offered him such a place.  A village of few distractions, the hills, valleys and people of Nashville became his subjects.  He produced a portfolio of color woodcuts entitled In the Hills of Brown and five large format color woodcuts.

His largest woodcut, The Mill Pond, measuring 25 x 33", is the largest color woodcut produced at the time.  These were shown at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco where Baumann won the gold medal for printmaking. His color woodcuts had already been included in the 1911 Paris Salon and numerous exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago and the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis where his first solo exhibition was held in 1913.

In 1916, he organized the first national exhibition of color woodcuts by American artists at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Baumann viewed art as "a kind of tyrant. It pushes you around.  It came to me dressed up in wanderlust."  This wanderlust pushed him to Wyoming, New York; New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Numerous Chicago artists including Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins and Martin Hennings effusively praised Taos as an artistic paradise and wanderlust reared again.

In 1918, Baumann headed West. Taos proved too small a village so he headed to Santa Fe.  The Fine Art Museum had opened the previous year and its open door policy for artists appealed to Baumann.  He eventually built himself a home on Camino de las Animas, married Jane Devereux Henderson, and lived in Santa Fe until his death in 1971.

Baumann's interest wasn't just limited to color woodcut.  He produced oils and sculpture, created over sixty marionettes, which provided the community with annual Christmas shows and wrote and illustrated Frijoles Canyon Pictographs in 1939, which was honored with the Fifty Books of the Year Award.

Today his genius and individuality are recognized, and he is considered to be an American master of color woodcut.  Exhibitions of his woodcuts have been viewed across the country and they are included in almost every major museum in the United States.

Two of his color woodcuts are included in the current exhibition "Made in California: Art, Image and Identity 1900-2000 "at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Further information on Gustave Baumann can be obtained by reading Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art by Martin Krause and David Acton and Hand of a Craftsman: The Woodcut Technique of Gustave Baumann by David Acton.

Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries
GUSTAVE BAUMANN (1881 - 1971)

A German immigrant, Gustave Baumann moved with his family from Magdeburg to Chicago in 1891. At the age of 16 he became an apprentice in a commercial printmaking shop where he learned methods of drafting and printmaking. This same year he attended evening classes in drawing and design at the Art Institute of Chicago. By 1903, Baumann had opened his own business as a commercial artist and advertising designer, designing signs, billboards, package labels, and magazine advertisements. This enterprise allowed him to save enough money to return to Germany to study at the Royal School of Arts and Crafts in Munich, placing him in proximity to this country's well-known masters and traditions of craftsmanship.
When Baumann returned to Chicago in 1906, he resumed his career as a commercial artist and proceeded to receive many prestigious commissions. However, he continued to produce his own art and, in 1909, executed his first limited edition color woodcuts which were exhibited in the Art Institute of Chicago. This new-found success enabled him to once again leave Chicago, this time for the solitude and peacefulness of Brown County, Indiana, where he remained until 1917. Then, after several months at various art colonies, Baumann accepted an invitation from Walter Ufer to visit Taos, New Mexico, eventually settling in Santa Fe a few months later.

Although Baumann only expected to live in New Mexico temporarily, he remained there for the rest of his life. The vivid colors of the Southwest fascinated him and immediately appeared in his work. Everything intrigued him, from the arroyos to the desert vegetation to pictographs on cave walls. The Santa Fe artists' community embraced Baumann and he soon became immersed in its many activities. In fact, in 1926, he constructed the first effigy of Zozobra in celebration of Santa Fe's annual Fiesta. In honor of his great talent and dedication, he was elected an associate of the Taos Society of Artists and was a founding member of both the Society of New Mexico Painters and the Santa Fe Art Club. The Southwest proved to be an environment in which Baumann thrived and came to be where he ultimately found his artistic niche.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I
Born: Magdeburg, Germany 1881
Died: Santa Fe, New Mexico 1971

Santa Fe painter of Indian figures and landscapes, woodblock printmaker, woodcarver, writer

Baumann was brought to Chicago with his family in 1891. He studied drawing and printmaking at the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Munich and then at the Art Institute of Chicago. Moving to Indiana, he designed, cut, and printed woodblocks illustrative of Indiana authors. Exhibiting nationally and in Paris, by 1915, he won the printmaking award at the San Francisco Expos.

After a few years of pampering his "wanderlust," he settled in Santa Fe in 1918, one of the colony's founders along with John Sloan, Randall Davey, and Fremont Ellis. Continuing as a rare worker in woodblock, he also painted in bright colors. His paintings were sometimes for fun, a Deer Dance showing the dancers as the animals and Pasa Tiempo as a kachina ceremony with dolls dancing. After 1931, he worked with the Marionette Theater, carving his own "little people." Baumann wrote and illustrated "Frijoles Canyon Pictographs" selected as one of 50 books of the year 1940. His woodcuts were his own version of the sacred Indian pictographs of northern New Mexico. Baumann also carved church figures, saying, "If a man had to harp on one string, he'd go flat."

Resource: SAMUELS' Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Carmel
Gustave Baumann was born in Germany in 1881 and moved with his family to the U.S. as a young boy. While in his teens, Baumann began taking classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and followed these studies with a year in Germany, where he quickly mastered the art of color woodblock prints.

Upon his return to the U.S., Baumann found the atmosphere of Indiana's Brown County to nurture his creativity. His works from this era were exhibited at the Paris Salon, and the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco, where he earned a Gold Medal.

After trying several other cities, Baumann moved to Taos, and ultimately Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lived and worked for over 50 years, until his death in 1971.

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About  Gustave Baumann

Born:  1881 - Madgeburg, Germany
Died:   1971 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Known for:  wood cuts, occasional painting