Made with one of the oldest printmaking techniques, woodblock prints are characterized by their boldness of line and dramatic contrasts between light and dark. Adding color to the equation only deepens the medium’s potential, which was taken to incredible heights by the renowned 20th-century master Gustave Baumann.
On view now at the Indianapolis Museum of Art is a colorful exhibition featuring the multifarious works of Gustave Baumann (1881-1971). With prints, sketches, watercolors, marionettes, toys, and gourd sculptures, the exhibition includes a wide array of objects and artworks Baumann created over his 65-year career. The artist is a major figure in the pantheon of 20th-century American artists, and Baumann’s prints and other works have been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

Gustave Baumann, “Madison Square,” 1917, color woodblock print, 13 1/4 x 11 1/8 in.
(c) Indianapolis Museum of Art 2015

A German native, Baumann moved at age 10 to the United States, where he began working as an assistant for an engraving firm in Chicago while taking night classes at the Art Institute. Honing both his aesthetic and printmaking skills in Chicago, Baumann returned to Germany in 1904, where he gravitated toward woodcuts. The rest, as they say, is history.

Gustave Baumann, “Ridge Road,” ca. 1916-1918, color woodblock print, 11 x 10 in.
(c) Indianapolis Museum of Art 2015

Although Baumann is known for his exquisite woodblock prints, he also “made furniture, fabricated toys and marionettes, designed interiors, illustrated books, and sculpted,” the museum points out. “To each of these endeavors, as attested by his personal mark, this uncommonly industrious and original artist gave both his hand and his heart. Interpretive tools, including videos and photos of the artist, interactive iPads, a touch table, and more help visitors to learn about the artist’s life, his influences and artistic processes.”

Gustave Baumann, “Estes Park, Colorado (Mountain Lake),” 1930, tempera over pencil on paper, 10 1/4 x 9 1/4 in.
(c) Indianapolis Museum of Art 2015

“Gustave Baumann: German Craftsman — American Artist” opened on October 24 and will be on view through February 14.

Gustave Baumann, “Mission San Juan Capistrano,” 1928, tempera over pencil on paper, 10 3/4 x 12 1/8 in.
(c) Indianapolis Museum of Art 2015

To learn more, visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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