Gustave Baumann

1881 – 1971

When he was ten years old, German immigrant Gustave Baumann came to the United States with his family. Soon after they settled in Chicago his father abandoned them. Needing to contribute to family support, his talent at drawing helped him get a job with a commercial engraving company as an apprentice. During this time he also attended night classes at the Chicago Art Institute. When he was 23 he returned to Germany for 18 months where he studied wood carving and learned woodblock printing techniques. On his return to the United States he was able to earn a living in his own business as a graphic artist.

Baumann heard about Brown County, Indiana as being a good place for artists and lived there for several months using his savings so he could devote full time to perfecting his woodcut technique. Because of his commercial printing experience, Baumann used a printing press to produce his woodcuts rather than hand rubbing them in the Japanese style used by most American artists. It was in Indiana that he developed a mark used for identification of all his prints – an opened palm of a hand on a heart which was his seal or pledge to make his work available to those who would enjoy it. He produced some of the largest color woodcuts for that era and won a gold medal for color woodcuts in the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition.

Baumann spent much time traveling as well and is quoted as saying:
“Art…is a kind of tyrant: it pushes you around. It came to me dressed as wanderlust”
Many artists he knew in Chicago had been to the Southwest and described it in terms that piqued his interest. He found Taos to be more crowded and prone to socializing than he liked. But Santa Fe had recently opened a Museum of Fine Art and its director offered him a studio in the basement.

Baumann was one of the first graphic artists in New Mexico. He was one of the first non-Japanese artists to fully develop the use of color in woodblock printing. In producing a woodblock print, he carved separate blocks for every color to be printed, sometimes five or six colors on each print. He mixed his own colors and used paper especially made for him in Germany. His editions were small but repeated if they sold. The first edition would be 25 prints. If they sold, he did another edition of 50; and if that sold out he would print one more edition of 50. But he never printed a total of more than 125.

Aside from sketching trips, he remained in Santa Fe the rest of his life. Baumann’s creativity and craftsmanship expressed itself in the Santa Fe community in other areas besides printmaking. He produced paintings, furniture, sculpture, toys, and wrote plays and poems. He carved sixty elaborate puppets and created the “Marionette Theater, which still exists in Santa Fe today. During the WPA era, he was made co-ordinator for Santa Fe. He wrote and illustrated a book of Indian pictographs of Northern New Mexico which was selected as one of the 50 best books of the year in 1940.

His work is in numerous museums including the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art, the Los Angeles County Museum, Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, The Terra Foundation of American Art, The Denver Art Museum, Philbrook Art Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, and many others.

“Eagle Ceremony at Tesuque Pueblo”
image size 6 ½” x 6 ½ “
two color woodcut for Colophon 1932
paper size 8 ½” x 10 ½”
signed GB with his seal