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Philbrook Museum Opens Exhibition of Woodblock Prints by German Printmaker Gustave Baumann
Preston Dickinson (1891-1930), Fort George Hill, 1915. Oil on linen, 14 x 17 in. Organized by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, Utica, New York.

TULSA, OK. German printmaker Gustave Baumann was known for his woodblock prints, a labor-intensive technique that requires carving a new block for each color used. Usually, his final images included five or six colors and consequently the same number of blocks. The resulting prints are rich with vivid colors, capturing the brilliant light on the stratified landscape of the Southwest. Although many of his images are landscapes of this unique part of America, he also captured activities and arts of the Pueblo Indians, illustrating aspects of their social and ceremonial life in his colorful prints.

Most of the pieces in this exhibition are from the Eugene B. Adkins Collection of Western and Native American art. The collection includes nearly 300 prints and drawings, of which 40 are by Gustave Baumann. This selection of Baumann’s work provides excellent examples of his mastery of woodblock printing, and captures stunning images of the American Southwest, from landscapes to scenes of traditional Pueblo Indian dances.

Gustave Baumann was a printmaker and painter, and one of the leading figures of the color woodcut revival in America. His works have been shown at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the New Mexico Museum of Art. He is also recognized for his role in the 1930s as area coordinator the Public Works of Art Project of the Works Progress Administration.

At the age of 10, he moved to the United States with his family, and by age 17 he was working for an engraving house while attending night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. He returned to Germany in 1904 to attend the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Munich where he studied wood carving and learned the techniques of wood block prints. After returning to the U.S. he began producing color woodcuts as early as 1908, earning his living as a graphic artist.

He spent time in Brown County, Indiana as a member of the Brown County Art Colony, developing his printmaking technique. He followed the traditional European method of color relief printing using oil-based inks and printing his blocks on a large press. This contrasted with the trend at the time of many American artists to employ hand rubbed woodblock prints in the Japanese traditional style. By this time he had developed his personal artist's seal: the opened palm of a hand on a heart. His Mill Pond is the largest color woodcut produced at the time. These were shown at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition where Baumann won the gold medal for color woodcut. In 1918, he headed to the Southwest to inquire into the artists' colony of Taos, New Mexico. Thinking it too crowded and too social, he boarded the train which stopped in Santa Fe. Its Museum of Fine Art had opened the previous year and its open door policy for artists appealed to Baumann.

In Santa Fe, Baumann became known as a master of woodcuts and marionette-making, also producing oils and sculpture. His work depicted southwestern landscapes, ancient Indian petroglyphs, scenes of Pueblo life, and gardens and orchards. He remained in Santa Fe for more than fifty years until his death in 1971.

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