About Gustave Baumann

Born June 27, 1881 in Magdeburg, Germany, Gustave Baumann came with his family to the United States when he was ten.  Soon after arriving in their new home of Chicago, Baumann’s father left the family and Gustave was responsible for supporting the household.  At age sixteen, he began full-time work as an apprentice for an engraving house, while going to the Art Institute of Chicago at night to “get a little closer to art.”  He worked next at an advertising studio, and by 1903 opened his own studio.  After saving one thousand dollars from his new business, Gustave gave half to his mother and left for Munich, Germany to attend the Kunstgewerbe Schule (School of Arts and Crafts).  He was interested in learning the bold new style of artwork being produced there.  That one-year experience turned out to be one of the most significant influences in his career.

Upon returning to Chicago in 1906, Baumann continued his career as a commercial artist while creating an abundance of intricate wood block prints which developed from opaque watercolor studies of regional landscape scenes.  He would then personally cut one block for each color in the scene and edit them until he was satisfied with the results.  He then printed editions of the images and sold them.  In 1909, Baumann produced his first limited edition (usually 125) color woodcuts and exhibited them at the Art Institute of Chicago.  This successful showing enabled him to move to a small town in Brown County, Indiana.  The work here became more picturesque.

It was also during his time in Indiana that he developed his personal seal, the image of a hand opened over the heart, which was his pledge to make his craftwork available to those who might enjoy it.  By that time he was exhibiting nationally and in the Paris Salon.  By 1915, he had won the Panama-Pacific International Exposition’s printmaking award in San Francisco.

Baumann remained in Indiana until 1917 when he set out for the East coast and lived for a time in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York.  He then headed for Taos, New Mexico to visit artist friends, Walter Ufer and Victor Higgins.  He intended to only visit Santa Fe, but ended up living there for over 50 years until his death in 1971.

Baumann’s work is held in over 100 museum collections in the United States and Great Britain. His work is still highly sought after by museums and collectors. Further information on Gustave Baumann can be obtained by reading In A Modern Rendering The Color Woodcuts of Gustave Baumann: A Catalogue Raisonné by Gala Chamberlain with essays by Nancy E. Green and Thomas Leech; The Autobiography of Gustave Baumann edited by Martin Krause; Gustave Baumann Views of Brown County edited by Martin Krause; Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art by Martin Krause and David Acton; Hand of a Craftsman: The Woodcut Technique of Gustave Baumann by David Acton; and Gustave Baumann’s Southwest by Joseph Traugott.


The quote hanging in one of his early workshops captures his philosophy of art and life: “Il faut cultiver notre jardin.” (From Voltaire’s Candide.) “We must cultivate our garden.”

Gustave Baumann (1881-1971)
Night of the Fiesta, Taos, 1924
Color woodcut print on paper (112/125)
5.75h x 7.25w in • 14.61h x 18.42w cm

Gustave Baumann (1881-1971)
Ranchos de Taos, 1930
Color woodcut print on paper (47/125)
9.25h x 11w in • 23.50h x 27.94w cm

Gustave Baumann (1881-1971)
Talpa Chapel, 1920
Color woodcut print on paper (100/125)
5.75h x 7.50w in • 14.61h x 19.05w cm