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Gustave Baumann
american (b. germany)
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Magdeburg, Germany
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
Santa Fe
American printmaker and painter Gustave Baumann is known for his colorful woodblock prints, particularly his landscapes depicting scenes in New Mexico and the California coast and life in Southwestern pueblos. Born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1881, Baumann’s family moved to Chicago in 1891. His father left the family around 1897, forcing Baumann to leave school and get work at a commercial printmaking business. In addition to learning printmaking at work, he took evening drawing classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. By 1900 he was working at the Curtis Gandy design studio and by 1903 had his own business as a commercial artist in Chicago. He saved enough money to return to Germany in 1905 and enroll in the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule (Royal School of Arts and Crafts) in Munich. Baumann studied under Maximilian Dasio (1865-1954), a painter who experimented with linocuts, and Hans Neumann (1873-1957), a woodcut artist, and learned both techniques. He returned to Chicago the next year, resumed his work in commercial art and by 1907 had joined the Palette & Chisel Club, a group of commercial artists who pursued “fine art” in their spare time. In 1909 he created his first set of color woodcuts, which were shown at the Art Institute in 1910. That year he traveled to the artists’ colony in Nashville, Brown County, Indiana, intending to spend the summer but instead lived there until 1917. By the end of 1910 he had created In the Hills o’ Brown, a portfolio of twelve four-color woodcuts. Baumann participated in group exhibitions in Chicago and Indianapolis in 1911 and had a solo exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1913. Traveling to Chicago as needed, Baumann continued his commercial art business, most notably creating advertising and illustrated calendars for the Packard Motor Car Company from 1914 to 1917. He painted with oils in addition to making prints. The eight color woodblock prints he exhibited at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915 won a gold medal. In 1917 Baumann traveled to Westport, Connecticut, worked at a summer school in upstate Wyoming, New York, visited friends in Provincetown on Massachusetts’s Cape Cod and ended up in New York City. The following year he organized a touring exhibition of his works that appeared in Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Santa Fe. That summer he visited Taos, New Mexico, where many of his Chicago friends were part of the art colony. In the fall he went to Santa Fe to open his exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts. The museum’s curator Paul Walter gave him studio space in the museum basement and arranged for a $500 loan, which enabled Baumann to settle in Santa Fe, where he stayed for the next five decades. Baumann became a central figure in the arts world in New Mexico. His work extended to designing and building sets for theater productions. He traveled around New Mexico, making sketches and gaining inspiration for his prints. In 1925 he married Jane Devereux Henderson, a singer and actress. Travels to California and Colorado led to many color landscape prints. In the 1930s he began carving marionettes, initially intended to entertain his daughter Ann (b. 1927), but later becoming a miniature stage show of about 65 puppets. Baumann served as a regional coordinator for the federal Public Works of Art Project for six months during the Depression. He work included restoration of a 17th century statute of the Virgin Mary for the Cathedral of Saint Francis and carving an altar screen for an Episcopal church, both in Santa Fe. In 1939 he created twenty-six woodcuts to illustrate his book, Frijoles Canyon Pictographs, depicting canyon’s cave drawings. Baumann collected Kachina dolls and other figurines from the Pueblo and Hopi tribes, and depicted them in woodcuts. Other prints showed life in the pueblos. Retrospective exhibitions of his woodcuts were mounted in the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, in 1952 and 1961, and that museum organized a touring exhibition of his works in 1965. A hard-working artist. Baumann cut his own blocks and printed his works himself, creating almost four hundred prints during his career. Later in his life he was troubled by arthritis and focused on painting in oils. He died at home in 1971. (TNB 11/2014) Selected bibliography: Acton, David. Hand of a Craftsman: The Woodcut Technique of Gustave Baumann. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1993. Krause, Martin F., Madeline Carol Yurtseven and David Acton. Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1993.