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Gustave Baumann: Colorful Cuts

Like many Chicago artists in the first years of the 20th century, Gustave Baumann discovered the beauty of rural Brown County in Indiana. While living in Nashville from 1910 to 1916, he produced his first important set of color woodcuts. In 1917 he headed east before traveling the next year to New Mexico, where he spent the rest of his life. Exhilarated by the state’s natural beauty, he settled in Santa Fe and over the next five decades produced complex color woodcuts that captured the area’s intense sunlight and arid atmosphere. Baumann’s prints portray not only stunning mountain scenery but also indigenous adobe architecture and scenes representing Native American and Hispanic cultures. Over the years, Baumann made numerous trips around New Mexico, Arizona, and California searching for additional picturesque venues, such as at the Grand Canyon and among giant sequoias, all of which became the subjects of beautiful color woodcuts.

The exhibition also illustrates how Baumann worked. He began by making tempura drawings in front of the subject. The outlines of the main forms were transferred to woodblocks, one for each color. The museum owns a set of blocks for his print Summer Clouds (1926) and the proofs, allowing visitors to understand how he printed layers of color to achieve rich effects.
Relevant research areas: North America, 20th Century, Relief printing

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