Gustave Baumann’s name is synonymous with color woodcut. He produced almost two hundred color woodcuts during a career spanning eight decades. Baumann’s masterful techniques evolved over the decades but his roots, his beginnings, were in the commercial art field. The disciplines of the field served him well during his career and it was in his ephemeral work where his sense of design, sense of humor, and sense of humanity shone.
His early commercial commissions included the Sunday program for the April 19, 1908, service at St. Pauls Kirche in Chicago and a series of covers for The Inland Printer magazine.
Baumann was a member of the Palette and Chisel Club in Chicago and, in 1913, created the design for the banner of the club’s newsletter, The Cow Bell.
In the early 20th century, the ex libris was as important as personal stationery and Baumann designed many over the years for collectors, friends and family.
Early examples were etchings but Baumann soon gave up etching, preferring the less toxic technique of the woodcut.
Throughout his career Baumann carved wood blocks to create his stationery, announcements (marriage, birth, moving) and his holiday greeting cards.
The imagery of his greetings cards range from the illustrative to the whimsical.
They were a vehicle to unleash his imagination and what an imagination it was.
Posters also fall within ephemera and Baumann designed posters for the Palette and Chisel Club, the Indianapolis Trade Association (by the way, we would love to find an example of this 1912 poster declaring Indianapolis to be “The Heart of Trade”), the 1915 exhibition of Works by Chicago Artists, and a few for the Santa Fe Fiesta.
When Baumann felt the need to express his opinion on a social issue he did not hesitate putting pen to paper and knife into wood, and the results were sometimes printed in the New Mexico Sentinel (see “Monumental Episode,” February 23, 1938). When the Bursum Bill threatened Indian land and water rights Baumann carved a series of woodcuts after a play produced by locals in support of the rights of Native Americans.
Ephemera also encompasses books and book design. Baumann’s involvement with books ranged from designing illustrations for an author (All the Year Round and Pirates!), to writing his text and carving blocks for illustrations (Chips an’ Shavings and Frijoles Canyon Pictographs) and to writing his text and carving the text and illustration blocks (Indian Pottery Old and New).
This part of Baumann’s oeuvre is relatively unknown by comparison to his color woodcuts but each aspect of it serves to illustrate his amazing talent and creative genius. Be sure to see our full inventory of Gustave Baumann’s works.