Etched in wood Michael Abatemarco


Pasatiempo - - PASA TEMPOS -

Over the course of the 20th cen­tury, Gus­tave Bau­mann’s name was prac­ti­cally syn­ony­mous with Santa Fe. A mas­ter crafts­man who worked in the medi­ums of paint­ing and fur­ni­ture mak­ing, he in­fused all as­pects of his life with a vi­brant, play­ful, and mag­i­cal sense of artistry. But it is his work as a mas­ter printer for which he’s most re­mem­bered. For Bau­mann (1881-1971), print­mak­ing was a life­long pur­suit, and he left be­hind a mas­sive and dis­tinc­tive body of work that evoked the beauty and grandeur of the South­west and Amer­ica as a whole.

Bau­mann’s print work can be di­vided into sev­eral pe­ri­ods in dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions: Mu­nich (1905); Chicago (1906-1909); Brown County, In­di­ana (1910-1916); and New York City, up­state New York, and Province­town, Mass­a­chu­setts (1917). In ad­di­tion, he worked in Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia in the 1920s. But the largest pe­riod of ac­tiv­ity for Bau­mann was in New Mex­ico. Bau­mann spent nearly 50 years in full com­mit­ment to his on-site print­ing stu­dio and work­shop at his home on Camino de las An­i­mas in Santa Fe. Though he per­mit­ted few to en­ter the space be­yond as­sis­tants and the oc­ca­sional stu­dent, a recre­ation of the stu­dio is on view at the Palace of the Gov­er­nors’ Palace Press.

“We have prob­a­bly 90 per­cent or more of his ac­tual tools and ma­te­ri­als,” said Tom Leech, di­rec­tor of the Palace Press. “We have his press, his hand tools, rollers, the pig­ments he used to make his own ink.” Leech dis­cusses Bau­mann’s use of tools and tech­niques in a talk on Fri­day, Sept. 28, dur­ing “A Gath­er­ing for Gus,” a two-day symposium on the artist spon­sored by the New Mex­ico His­tory Mu­seum and the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art. The symposium com­mem­o­rates the cen­ten­nial of Bau­mann’s ar­rival in New Mex­ico. In ad­di­tion to the symposium, the ex­hi­bi­tion Gus­tave Bau­mann: Mas­ter

Print­maker, A Pre­lude is on view through Oc­to­ber at Ger­ald Peters Gallery (1005 Paseo de Per­alta), and the show Among Friends: Gus­tave Bau­mann — Shared Vi­sions con­tin­ues through Nov. 3 at Owings Gallery (120 E. Marcy St.).

Most of the print­mak­ing Bau­mann did in New Mex­ico was done on a Re­liance Mid­get hand press he pur­chased from Chicago in 1917. It’s a small press with a large wood-han­dled lever used to raise and lower the platen for ap­ply­ing pres­sure to the pa­per over the wood­block. It’s still op­er­a­tional, and Leech oc­ca­sion­ally uses it for demon­stra­tions of Bau­mann’s process. “When the mu­seum pur­chased the press in 2001, it came with the stip­u­la­tion that it’s OK to use it,” he said. “Above and be­yond that, Bau­mann, late in life, in a note he left for Jane and Ann, his wife and daugh­ter, said he’d like to see the press main­tained by some­one who can use it. But not the tools.”

The small ex­hibit in­side the Palace Press also con­tains the grinder Bau­mann used for pig­ments. Ac­cord­ing to Josie Lopez, au­thor of The Carved Line: Block Print­mak­ing in New Mex­ico (Mu­seum of New Mex­ico Press, 2017), the pig­ments were mixed with an oil base and later a var­nish base. He de­vel­oped a strong knowl­edge of color over the decades, and un­der­stood the in­tri­ca­cies of pig­ments and the dif­fer­ent be­hav­iors of one color from an­other when mixed. He would change col­ors in an edi­tion, Lopez writes, and added or omit­ted blocks so that num­bers in an edi­tion were of­ten unique from one an­other rather than per­fect du­pli­cates.

— Palace Press di­rec­tor Tom Leech “We have prob­a­bly 90 per­cent or more of his ac­tual tools and ma­te­ri­als.”

Bau­mann would of­ten be­gin each com­po­si­tion as a color sketch or a sim­ple gouache ren­der­ing and use it as a guide. His process was done in the Ja­panese wood­block tech­nique of carv­ing sep­a­rate blocks (he used bass­wood for its ease of carv­ing) for each color used in the print, a time-con­sum­ing and painstak­ing process. Ac­cord­ing to Lopez, he worked with Ja­panese pa­pers, too, early on, but even­tu­ally switched to cream laid pa­per. When the mill at Ger­man pa­per com­pany J.W. Zan­ders was de­stroyed dur­ing World War II, Bau­mann switched to other prod­ucts.

Bau­mann’s dis­tinc­tive chop mark is a heart with a hand in­side of it. It was made from a sep­a­rate piece of carved wood, usu­ally inked with or­ange for most of his prints. A dot­ted bor­der that sur­rounds each com­po­si­tion is an­other fea­ture unique to the work of Bau­mann.

As rich and de­tailed as the print­ing process it­self was, it is the end re­sults that en­chant au­di­ences. His evoca­tive land­scapes, por­traits, and genre scenes are pe­cu­liar to the re­gions they evoke, but they possess an old-world qual­ity that is be­witch­ing.

Bau­mann was born in Magde­burg, Ger­many, about 100 miles west of Ber­lin, to­ward the end of the 19th cen­tury. He left with his fam­ily at age ten, ar­riv­ing first in New York City but then set­tling in Chicago. Soon after mov­ing to the Windy City, his fa­ther aban­doned the fam­ily. He left school at six­teen and went to work in an en­grav­ing house, at­tend­ing night classes at the Art In­sti­tute of Chicago, as he be­gan a ca­reer in com­mer­cial graphic de­sign. In 1905, he trav­eled to Mu­nich and stud­ied color block print­ing at the School for Arts and Crafts. He be­gan us­ing his fa­vored tech­nique of us­ing mul­ti­ple blocks for a sin­gle print that same year. While in Europe, a Ger­man artis­tic style called ju­gend­stil, rooted in English Art Nou­veau and Ja­panese print­mak­ing and aes­thet­ics, in­flu­enced his work. After his stud­ies abroad, he came back to the United States and even­tu­ally founded the Swanli Press in up­state New York in 1917, the year be­fore he came to New Mex­ico. A hum­ble man, Bau­mann held warm re­la­tion­ships with other artists and of­ten sought to pro­mote and en­cour­age them. His at­ti­tude was re­flected in his cho­sen medium, the fine art print — among the most demo­cratic of art forms. “He didn’t have any el­e­vated opin­ion of him­self,” Martin Krause, cu­ra­tor of prints, draw­ings, and pho­to­graphs at the Indianapolis Mu­seum of Art and ed­i­tor of Bau­mann’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, told Pasatiempo in 2015. Bau­mann was only in the eighth grade when he quit school, and he worked hard to prove him­self in the com­mer­cial art busi­ness. “He al­ways said that the one thing he was thank­ful to com­mer­cial art for was to be mind­ful of his cus­tomers, the peo­ple who were buy­ing his art. He worked for them, es­sen­tially, which is cer­tainly not an ego-driven per­son­al­ity at all,” Krause said. He dis­cusses Bau­mann’s early years dur­ing the symposium.

A hum­ble man, Bau­mann held warm re­la­tion­ships with other artists and of­ten sought to pro­mote and en­cour­age them.

Santa Fe was not Bau­mann’s orig­i­nal New Mex­ico des­ti­na­tion. He had in­tended to set­tle in Taos, back when it was still an un­in­cor­poart rated vil­lage. Taos al­ready had a thriv­ing scene that had at­tracted artists from across the coun­try. Bau­mann knew some of them (Wal­ter Ufer, Vic­tor Higgins, and E. Martin Hen­nings) from his stu­dent days at the Art In­sti­tute. But not long after his ar­rival in Santa Fe, the Art Gallery of the Mu­seum of New Mex­ico (now known as the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art) pre­sented a trav­el­ing ex­hi­bi­tion of his work, and he found he pre­ferred the di­ver­sity of Santa Fe to that of Taos. He set­tled across the street from painter B.J.O. Nord­feldt, an­other of his Chicago ac­quain­tances whom he also knew from the San Fran­cisco Ex­po­si­tion of 1915. At that event, Nord­feldt won a sil­ver medal for his art­work and Bau­mann took the gold for a wood­block print.

He en­joyed a long-term re­la­tion­ship with the fine art mu­seum in Santa Fe, and was even, for a while, en­gaged in stu­dio work in the mu­seum’s base­ment. He was given the work space in ex­change for help­ing Sam Hudel­son, a mu­seum cus­to­dian, build fur­ni­ture and mount shows. “He was only there for a short time and left be­cause, he said, you can’t get any work done in a mu­seum,” Leech said. “Peo­ple are al­ways com­ing to bor­row your tools.”

Bau­mann’s rep­u­ta­tion as a print­maker grew after a pro­lific pe­riod of pro­duc­tiv­ity in the 1920s. Dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion, how­ever, many artists found them­selves job­less. Pro­grams such as the Pub­lic Works of Art Project (PWAP) aimed to get them back to work. Di­vided into 16 na­tional re­gions, the project des­ig­nated Santa Fe as the ad­min­is­tra­tive head­quar­ters for Re­gion Thir­teen. Ar­chae­ol­o­gist Jesse Nus­baum was its di­rec­tor, and, lack­ing a strong back­ground in art, he ap­pointed Bau­mann as the area co­or­di­na­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to Clin­ton Adams, au­thor of Print­mak­ing in New Mex­ico: 1890-1990 (Univer­sity of New Mex­ico Press, 1991), Bau­mann’s job was to keep track of artists’ progress and en­cour­age them in their work. But the pro­gram ended in 1934, less than six months after it was first in­sti­tuted. The Fed­eral Art Project, funded by the Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion, took its place start­ing in 1935. Print­mak­ing con­tin­ued to flour­ish un­der such pro­grams, in part be­cause it al­lowed the gen­eral pub­lic ac­cess to orig­i­nal, af­ford­able works of art in years of eco­nomic in­sta­bil­ity.

Lopez con­tends that it also pro­vided a means to cap­ture, vis­ually, the hu­man and en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of the De­pres­sion. “For many New Mex­i­can artists, par­tic­i­pa­tion in the pro­grams was prac­ti­cal and nec­es­sary for sur­vival,” she writes, “but it also in­volved a pa­tri­otic com­mit­ment that con­nected them to what it meant to be a worker and what it meant to par­tic­i­pate in democ­racy.” She cites Bau­mann’s 1934 PWAP re­port, in which he states, “My own in­ter­est in as­sum­ing a share in the di­rec­tion of the project was prompted by the hope that the artists as a group might be the first to re­ally ac­cept Wash­ing­ton in the light of the New Deal and by do­ing so ac­tu­ally feel them­selves a re­spon­si­ble part of the govern­ment, rather than look­ing upon it as an oblig­ing milch cow con­ve­niently ma­tured in in­ex­haustible clover.”

A large num­ber of artists par­tic­i­pated in the fed­eral pro­grams, and Lopez writes that their ac­tiv­i­ties lent le­git­i­macy and vi­a­bil­ity to the artis­tic pro­fes­sions while also de­moc­ra­tiz­ing art and putting food on the ta­ble. But she men­tions draw­backs: A sti­fling of cre­ative ex­pres­sion due to the ex­pec­ta­tion that no­table artists work­ing in es­tab­lished tra­di­tions should con­tinue to do so rather than ex­per­i­ment. But Bau­mann did con­tinue to ex­per­i­ment and adapted dif­fer­ent for­mal qual­i­ties for works that fell within par­tic­u­lar themes. His idyl­lic, en­chant­ing land­scapes of New Mex­ico, for in­stance, of­ten con­trasted with the starker vi­su­als of his treat­ment of Na­tive Amer­i­can

sub­jects, such as in his ren­der­ings of cer­e­mo­nial dances. “Many of his wood­block prints of Pue­blo peo­ples and lands verged on the ab­stract and the sur­real,” Lopez writes. One sees in these works a more mod­ernist treat­ment of the sub­ject.

Lopez gives ex­am­ples of how his work changed over the years. She refers to Sum­mer Clouds (1925), a sim­ple scene de­pict­ing an old adobe home against a blue sky where two fig­ures en­gage in con­ver­sa­tion from op­po­site sides of a fence. It in­cor­po­rated a bright pal­ette, im­plied de­tails, and flat masses of color that brought a co­he­sive sense of bal­ance to the over­all com­po­si­tion. This seems char­ac­ter­is­tic of his early work in New Mex­ico. “Later on, Bau­mann’s prints fea­tured more in­ti­mate set­tings with softer flo­ral mo­tifs,” she writes, cit­ing his wood­block print Spring

Blos­soms from 1950. The print stands out for Bau­mann’s use of metal­lic leaf for the sky. He was, Lopez states, among the first artists in the United States to use metal­lic leaf in his print­mak­ing.

Spring Blos­soms has been used in post­hu­mous ex­hibits of the artist’s work to pro­vide view­ers with a sense of Bau­mann’s process. The New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art main­tains it in its col­lec­tion along with the orig­i­nal blocks (he typ­i­cally had about four or five for each com­po­si­tion) and the sim­ple print, when shown with the blocks, gives a clear im­pres­sion of how he de­vel­oped each work.

The mu­seum is the ideal co-spon­sor for the symposium, not only be­cause of Bau­mann’s his­tory with the in­sti­tu­tion but be­cause they hold the largest col­lec­tion of his works, in­clud­ing the ma­jor­ity of his New Mex­ico-themed color wood­cuts, sketch­books, pro­gres­sive series of prints with the as­so­ci­ated blocks, nu­mer­ous paint­ings in oil and gouache, ad­ver­tis­ing ma­te­ri­als, il­lus­tra­tions, and other wood­cuts made for fam­ily and friends. In ad­di­tion, the mu­seum has mem­o­ra­bilia, pho­to­graphs, post­cards, scrap­books, and over 60 of the artist’s mar­i­onettes as well as the set de­signs, scripts, and stage props for the mar­i­onette per­for­mances. The col­lec­tion in­cludes more than 500 ob­jects, the ma­jor­ity of which Jane Bau­mann gifted to the mu­seum after his death.

His stip­u­la­tion that the press con­tinue to be used, how­ever, made the Palace Press an ideal repos­i­tory for some of his ma­te­ri­als, as well. How the Palace of the Gov­er­nors came by the other stu­dio items on view at the Press was largely through hap­pen­stance. Cul­tural his­to­rian and cu­ra­tor Wil­liam Wroth dis­cov­ered an old wooden crate with Bau­mann’s name on it on his prop­erty. He con­tacted Leech and asked if he was in­ter­ested in see­ing it. “I drove over there,” Leech said. “It had been in his garage for years, and he was giv­ing it away to some­one else and was lift­ing it into the guy’s truck when he saw the name and said, ‘You can’t have it,’ and called me.”

Ac­cord­ing to Leech, Wroth wasn’t sure how the empty crate ended up in his pos­ses­sion, but the house next door had be­longed to He­len Gen­try, a pub­lisher and friend of the Bau­manns. There was an old swim­ming pool on the Gen­try prop­erty full of stuff from Bau­mann’s stu­dio. She had ac­quired it after the death of Jane Bau­mann, but was in need of a per­ma­nent place to store all the ma­te­ri­als. When Gen­try’s nieces, Rita and Lin­nea Gen­try, took over main­te­nance of the house, they drained the pool, dug a trench to cre­ate an en­trance, and put a roof over it. Leech was in­vited to view the ma­te­ri­als. He was look­ing for one par­tic­u­lar com­po­nent: a tym­pan, a stretched cloth set in a wood frame that folded over the press and was used to add more pres­sure dur­ing the print­ing process. The tym­pan from Bau­mann’s press was miss­ing. “I not only found what I was look­ing for but a lot of this other stuff, too, Leech said. “I re­al­ized I could prob­a­bly put to­gether a fac­sim­ile of the Bau­mann stu­dio, and so that’s what we did.”

The New Mex­i­can

Tares, 1952, wood­block print, cour­tesy Ger­ald Peters Gallery; above im­ages, Bau­mann in his stu­dio, circa 1955, cour­tesy Palace of the Gov­er­nors Photo Archives, Gus­tave Bau­mann Col­lec­tion; top, photo Gabriela Cam­pos/

New Mex­i­can

Pho­tos this page Gabriela Cam­pos/The

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