Old Santa Fe, a color woodblock print by German-American artist Gustave Baumann (1881–1971), now enhances the UMFA’s collection and will soon be on view in the reinstalled galleries of American and regional art. Baumann studied in Chicago and Germany and then took up residence in the artists’ colonies of Brown County, Indiana, and Provincetown, Massachusetts. He found his greatest source of inspiration, however, in the people and places of the American Southwest—first in Taos and then Santa Fe. He brought his printmaking practice to Santa Fe and joined a group charged with preserving the city’s cultural heritage. Old Santa Fe is an iconic example of Baumann’s work. The small-scale (6 3/4 x 7 1/4 in.) yet stunning image captures the cityscape’s distinctive juxtaposition of earth tones and colorful architectural details.
In a time of mechanization, Baumann chose the traditional woodcut process for his modern compositions; his heartfelt devotion to craftsmanship is conveyed through his signature mark, a hand in a heart. The laborious method typically began with tempera sketches of the motif, which were transferred to wooden blocks. He then liberated the strokes of his sketch by chiseling the surface surrounding the motif, repeating the process for each desired color. When printed, an image coalesced on paper from multiple inked blocks.
Baumann maintained his relationship with the Indianapolis gallery and frame retailer H. Lieber Company which continued to supply his frame stock. In Santa Fe, he assembled, prepared, and painted the frames, exercising ultimate control over the presentation of his work. The UMFA’s acquisition of Old Santa Fe includes the original frame handcrafted by the artist.
The life and technique of this important regional artist is the subject of a May 25 ARTLandish lecture by Marty Krause, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Krause, the leading expert on Baumann, recently edited The Autobiography of Gustave Baumann and organized the 2015 IMA exhibition Gustave Baumann, German Craftsman – American Artist.