Gustave Baumann Exhibit Opens in Pasadena

The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is proud to present Gustave Baumann in California, the first focused investigation of Gustave Baumann’s influential presence in California. The six-month exhibition running through August 6 emphasizes the artist’s affinity for the natural landscape of the United States, as well as the intricate elements of his unique approach to printmaking.

Born in Germany, Baumann immigrated to the United States in 1891. He lived and studied in Chicago and Munich before traveling throughout America, finally settling in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1918. Influenced by early exposure to commercial engraving, night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, and a year spent in Munich, Baumann developed his own woodcut style.

Trained in the German tradition of woodblock printing, Gustave Baumann (1881-1971) adapted his skills to American subjects and became a pioneer in the development of color woodcuts in the U.S. An expressive carver and exceptional colorist, Baumann employed dramatic shifts of light, color, and pattern. The exhibition features approximately 35 works, including graphite, tempera, and gouache studies; woodcuts; and progressive proofs, as well as Baumann’s chosen printing press. Hung alongside finished prints, the preparatory works provide an illuminating encounter with each stage of the printmaking process.

After careful study of his surroundings and his own immersion in nature, he created colorful gouache sketches, which he meticulously carved into a series of woodblocks. Unlike most of his contemporaries who followed the Japanese style of hand rubbing, Baumann ran his blocks through a press, often without the black outline of a key block. He then selected series of vibrant color palettes inspired by the places he observed to make his landscape masterpieces come to life.

The exhibition brings Baumann’s California works together with a selection of his formative color woodcuts of rural Brown County, Indiana — five from his Hills o’ Brown series and three of his largest color prints. It was during the seven years (1910-1918) spent in Brown County that the artist first devoted himself as a color woodblock artist, and in 1915, he exhibited the aforementioned Indiana woodcuts at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) in San Francisco, where he won a gold medal for printmaking, which will also be on display. Fellow printmakers Frances Gearhart and William S. Rice encountered the Indiana prints at the PPIE, and a print by each of the artists will also be on view, demonstrating Baumann’s influence on California artists and importance to the color woodcut revival.

On view in the PMCA’s South Gallery, Gustave Baumann in California 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.

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Baumann Photo:  Unknown photographer, probably Frank M. Hohenberger, Gustave Baumann at his press in Nashville, Indiana, printing The Mill Pond, 1913. The Ann Baumann Trust, courtesy of The Annex Galleries.

Top Photo:  Installation view, Gustave Baumann in California, March 5–August 6, 2017, Pasadena Museum of California Art, photo © 2017 Don Milici.

Top Print: Gustave Baumann, Coast Range, 1928. Color woodcut, no. 11 of 120; 9 1/2 x 11 3/8 inches. The Ann Baumann Trust, courtesy of The Annex Galleries.

Lower Print: Gustave Baumann, Windswept Eucalyptus, 1929; printed in 1936. Color woodcut, 9 5/8 x 11 3/8 inches. The Ann Baumann Trust, courtesy of The Annex Galleries.