Last time we looked at some of Baumann’s work from when he lived in Nashville, IN. Today, we’ll appreciate some of the art he produced during the 1920s and early 30s when he lived and traveled throughout the southwest. I didn’t know that he lived in Colorado for a time, so in some ways I felt kinship with Baumann in knowing he and I had both lived in the same places and loved the same landscapes, although nearly 80 years apart.
On display was this beautiful tempera painting that he did of Estes Park in Colorado. These studies were typically preliminary works for his woodcuts, but this print was never translated into a woodcut, which is a great loss for the world. This was one of my favorites.
I liked this woodcut of saguaro cactus for its bold colors and dramatic composition. You can tell a distinct difference in the tone of his work compared to his Nashville woodcuts. These are bolder, brighter, and reflective again of the landscape in which he lived. There’s nothing like the bright, blue skies of the west.
As he traveled through the southwest, he stopped at the Grand Canyon. He was simultaneously inspired and frustrated by the enormity of the scenery and struggled with how to properly capture it. In the woodcut above, he solved the dilemma by making the canyon the shadowy background and focusing on grand ponderosa pines in the foreground.
In this woodcut he employs the opposite strategy by zooming in on a portion of the canyon. He gives interest with the play of lighting across the rocky gorges. Shadows and bright light dance across the woodcut and the bright orange/pink of rock contrast in a pleasing way against the stony gray of the sky. This piece in particular reminds me of the graphic style of art popular in the 1950s which was used to advertise the national parks.
The last two woodcuts I’ll show today were inspired by cypress trees at Point Lobos State Preserve in northern California. This one is in his classic woodcut style, with layered colors creating a dreamy, watercolor-like landscape. It’s quite a lovely scene, with the sea in the background and these strong, twisted trees jutting out of the rocks.
This one has a dramatically different feel to it. It’s a similar scene, but worked predominately in black and white to give a decidedly graphic, bold feel. A sharp jab of bright blue draws your attention to a pair of sealions in the background. The sky is actually aluminum leaf. Baumann used this technique throughout his career to give a bit of shine and shimmer to his art and as a nod towards the art deco style, popular in his lifetime. I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the southwest and California through the eyes and handiwork of Gustave Baumann.
Blessings to you,