Gustave Baumann was born in Magdeburg, Germany on June 27, 1881. In 1891 his family set sail on a steamer bound for the United States. After their arrival in New York they took a train to Chicago to begin a new life. Baumann was ten years old at the time but manhood was just around the corner. With the departure of his father from the family in 1896, young Gustave felt the responsibility of earning a living. With an ad in hand and drawings under his arm, he knocked on the doors of the commercial engraving houses in Chicago. He was hired as an apprentice at the Franklin Engraving Company and his career in art began. Baumann also worked at the Zeese, Gandy, and Bruner engraving companies but he soon calculated that he could make more for himself if he opened his own business. In 1901, he opened his studio at 667 Osgood Street in Chicago. Night classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago fueled his desire to go back to Europe for an education that would free him from the commercial grind. In March 1904, he became a United States citizen and in August of the same year he boarded a steamer for Germany where he studied arts and crafts at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich.
Baumann returned to Chicago in December 1905 and by 1909 he and other members of the Palette and Chisel Club discovered Brown County, Indiana. Saving up $100.00 he could spend three months in Brown County, sketching and painting. In 1910 he produced a portfolio of small format color woodcuts entitled In the Hills of Brown and then produced some of the largest woodcuts of the time. His color woodcuts were selected for inclusion in the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition where he won the Gold Medal for Prints and an Honorable Mention for his Exhibit of Color Woodcuts. In the summer and fall of 1917, Baumann visited Wyoming, New York; Manhattan; and Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Many of his Chicago artist buddies had traveled to the southwest and Baumann became intrigued by their paintings and their souvenirs. They regaled him with their stories of an exotic place named Taos, New Mexico. Baumann spent the summer of 1918 in Taos sketching and painting before visiting Santa Fe. Paul Walter, the director of the Museum of New Mexico, offered him a studio in the basement of the museum. His wanderlust was satisfied as apart from numerous sketching trips over the years he remained in Santa Fe until his death on October 8, 1971.
During his ninety years, Baumann produced woodcuts, paintings, furniture, sculpture, toys and marionettes and wrote poetry and plays. Baumann was the ultimate craftsman, as he loved the feel of the wood, the tool and the handmade paper he selected. His hands controlled every aspect of his craft: the carving of the blocks, the mixing of the inks and the printing of the blocks.
Exhibitions of Baumann's color woodcuts circulated throughout the country in large part due to the American Federation of the Arts and the National Association of Women's Clubs. He also exhibited with the New Mexico Painters, the International Print Makers, Painters and Sculptors of the Southwest, and the Hoosier Salons. Solo exhibitions of Baumann's color woodcuts were mounted in museums and libraries across the United States and his work was represented in galleries from Carmel, California to New York City.
Baumann's work is held in the permanent collections of public collections too numerous to list. His work is still highly sought after by museums and collectors. Further information on Gustave Baumann can be obtained by reading 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.