One of America's finest color woodblock artists, Gustave Baumann is widely credited with the revival of this art form in the 20th century.
Born in Magdeburg, Germany in 1881, Baumann and his family relocated to the United States when he was a child. They eventually settled in Chicago, where he later worked as a commercial engraver while putting himself through night school at the Art Institute of Chicago. He traveled to Germany in 1904 to study wood block printing at the Kunstgewerbeschule ("School of Arts and Crafts") in Munich. Upon his return to the U.S., Baumann found that the atmosphere of Indianaâs Brown County nurtured his creativity. He received international acclaim when one of his color woodcuts won the gold medal at the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exhibition in San Francisco.
The general time periods for the locations he worked in and created his color woodcut prints are:
Brown County, Indiana (1910-1916)
New York City, upstate New York, and Provincetown, Massachusetts (1917)
After living in or traveling to these cities and states, Baumann visited his friends, artists Walter Ufer and Victor Higgins, in Taos in 1918 and ultimately moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lived for over 50 years, until his death in 1971. He was perpetually inspired and moved by the area's quiet, secluded, natural beauty, and felt in harmony with nature and the native peoples there. In 1919 he made his first trip to the Grand Canyon, completing five vividly colored woodblocks upon his return to Santa Fe. In 1924 he traveled to the Sonoran desert in Arizona, an area that provided a great deal of inspiration, and in 1925 he explored the California Coast. He worked steadily throughout the 1920âs and his work was very popular with collectors who lived in Arts and Crafts style homes.
In the 1930s, he served as area coordinator of the Public Works of Art Project of the Works Progress Administration.
His prints, made from multiple intricately detailed hand-carved woodblocks, are best known for their vivid coloration, striking color contrasts, bright, bold designs, and expert craftsmanship. Many of the works feature his characteristic framing device of tiny dots that serve as a border for the image, and his prints often include the artist's iconic âhand-in-heartâ chop which recalls his saying âWhat you put your hand to, you put your heart behindâ.