Gustave Baumann

In A Modern Rendering - The Color Woodcuts of Gustave Baumann: A Catalogue Raisonné

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, and a foreword by Martin Krause, has been published as of September 24, 2019, by Rizzoli Electra. The Annex Galleries is exhibiting a retrospective of Baumann's color woodcuts, ephemera, oil paintings, and sculpture at the gallery through the end of 2019. It is open to the public, Monday through Saturday during regular business hours.

Every artist deserves recognition of their work and for many this comes through sales, gallery representation and shows, or museum exhibitions and retrospectives, and, for the few, a catalogue raisonné of their oeuvre. Ann Baumann championed her father’s work and the catalogue raisonné was made possible by Ann Baumann’s financial planning via her trust. Her ambition was to realize a book on her father's work and to that end she invited me, Gala Chamberlain, into her home in 1996 to work with her toward that goal. Ann and I spent every Monday for eight years together working toward the catalogue raisonné.

Ann’s home was a repository of boxes, her father’s color woodcuts, furniture, marionettes, paintings, and wood blocks, etc. I studied color woodcuts that she had available for sale and the magnificent collection she had culled for possible future donations. That group of color woodcuts became my first study collection, as there were often two or three impressions of the same title but printed as variants or inscribed with different edition numbers. There were also numerous progressive proofs with related tempera studies. These proofs illustrated the progression of colors as well as the development of the image as one color was printed over another from separate blocks.

All papers, correspondence, exhibition catalogues, and magazines were organized and letters, once read, were put into archival sleeves and filed into archival storage boxes. After a few years I was allowed access to a room that was spilling with documents that related to Gustave Baumann. I liken it to an archaeological dig with one major discovery after another. Most of what I thought I knew about the artist had to be reexamined once printing recordings, consignment records, sales receipts, correspondence, and handwritten manuscripts were uncovered from the layers of accumulation. Once sorted into themes, I transcribed Baumann’s manuscripts into typescripts, which when finished totaled some 700 pages.

Modern printmakers who worked with professional workshops such as Tamarind or Tandem Press, etc. have a record kept for them of what was printed and by whom, and the data includes the number of various proofs, the edition size, the paper used, the name of the printer, etc. Printmakers, such as Baumann, who worked alone in their studios, were forced to keep their own records. Baumann certainly tried but his heart was in the creation of art not in its documentation. We are fortunate that he retained consignment records, correspondence, and sales records, but we are most fortunate that he created various printing records, however sketchy they might be, and inscribed printing notes on the verso of wood blocks or on the covers to progressive proofs. The data forming the basis of this present book was not easily accessible but luckily it was not irretrievable.

In A Modern Rendering: The Color Woodcuts of Gustave Baumann, A Catalogue Raisonné documents 190 editioned works, including color woodcuts and early etchings and color linocuts, and an extensive body of printed ephemera created during the years 1905 to 1970. The introductory essay, “Deftness, Soul, and a Gypsy Instinct: the Creative Art of Gustave Baumann,” was written by Nancy E. Green, Curator of European and American Art, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. With her history of research, exhibitions, and writing on American printmakers, Nancy was the perfect scholar for this task. Thomas Leech, director of the Press at the Palace of the Governors, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, is a curator, paper maker, and letterpress printer, and he curated a permanent exhibition of Baumann’s studio, which includes his vials of dried inks, printing press, printing papers, tools, etc. With his amazing knowledge of paper, presses, printing, and wood, Thomas was the perfect scholar craftsman to write the essay “The Problems of a Regular Guy,” on Baumann’s techniques. Martin Krause, Curator Emeritus of Prints and Drawings, Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, has a long history with Baumann’s color woodcuts and has extensive knowledge of the artist in Brown County and New Mexico. Marty co-authored Gustave Baumann: Nearer to Art and further edited two books, The Autobiography of Gustave Baumann and Gustave Baumann: Views of Brown County, and he graciously wrote the foreword for this book. Gala Chamberlain wrote essays on Baumann's studio practices, including on the papers used over his career and another on the history of his chops and their variations. The book is enriched by numerous never-before-published photographs of or by Gustave Baumann.