Gustave Baumann: Vibrant Scenery

An exploration of Gustave Baumann’s prints and preparatory works now open at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Courtesy of Western Art Collector, April 2017 

Gustave Baumann (1881-1971) was born in Germany and moved to Chicago with his family in 1891. He later apprenticed to a commercial printmaker, opened his own print shop and took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1910, he and his wife discovered Brown County, Indiana, on a search for subjects for his prints. They lived there for nearly seven years. In 1915 he won the gold medal for a color woodcut exhibited at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California. After a visit to New Mexico, the couple moved to Santa Fe where they lived for the rest of their lives. Between 1925 and 1938, Baumann took seven trips to the coast of California, gathering information for the third distinct portion of his oeuvre.

Gustave Baumann in California, an exhibition of his prints and preparatory works, is now on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art through August 6. The museum notes that the work in the exhibition “reveals California's and America's vibrant colors and scenic vistas through the eyes of a master artist. The exhibition places Baumann’s completed works in context with his studies, woodblocks, and progressive prints, highlighting his artistic process and revealing the hand and heart of this consummate craftsman.”

Bauman often said, “What you put your hand to, put your heart behind.” When he signed his prints, be printed a small hand with a heart between his first and last names. Bauman mixed his own paints, carved the many wood blocks, and pulled his own editions. He commented modestly, ”The charm of a color woodblock is usually a byproduct of good craftsmanship. It does not become apparent until the print is thoroughly dried and all the colors are amalgamated and set.”

Even in his graphite, tempera and gouache studies, Baumann’s unique approach to interpreting the landscape is evident. Their being displayed along with the finished prints offers a rare insight into his artistic process. San Francisco is a tempera an graphite study from 1935.

A print from his portfolio In the Hills o’ Brown, 1910-1914, reflects the more somber palette he used when he studied briefly in Munich in 1905 before moving to Brown County. After his first visit to the Southwest he declared, “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.”

Windswept Eucalyptus, 1929, is an example of the lively color that would dominate his work after he moved to New Mexico and visited the Pacific Coast.