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Baumann, Gustave Plum and Peach Bloom, 1911-1913


Gustave Baumann was a master of color woodblock prints. Born in Magdeburg, Germany, he moved to the Chicago area with his family in 1891, and left school at age 16 to support them. While working as a commercial engraver, Baumann began studying drawing in night classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1900, he went to work for the Curtis Gandy advertising studio, and by 1903 had opened his own business as a commercial artist. He visited Germany in 1905 and attended the Kunstgewerbeschule (Arts and Crafts School) in Munich for a year, where he learned the colored woodblock technique. He returned to Chicago and his commercial art business but continued to experiment with color woodblocks. He joined the Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts, an association of commercial artists interested in painting. Baumann first visited Brown County, Indiana, in the summer of 1910, but stayed long after the summer ended. In 1917 he moved permanently to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he established himself as one of the area’s leading painters and a master of the woodblock print.

  • Plum and Peach Bloom, 1911-1913
  • 26″ x 36″
  • Courtesy of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  • Keywords: woodcuts, prints, colored ink on paper
  • Subjects: fruit, flowers, farms, domestic animals, people, children, buckets, spring

Baumann created numerous colored wood blocks such as this one while he lived and worked in Brown County. The subject of these early woodcuts is often a genre scene—a scene from everyday life—and Baumann produced a portfolio of them that he titled “In the Hills of Brown County.” Between June 1911 and early 1913, Baumann created a series of four colored wood blocks—five colors in each, his most ambitious undertaking to date. Plum and Peach Bloom was part of this series. This springtime farmyard scene depicts life in rural southern Indiana, with hen and chicks roaming freely and a child carrying a bucket, probably to fetch water. Baumann exhibited these works regularly; an example of Plum and Peach Bloom was shown at the Art Institute of Chicago early in 1913. A version of the work also was exhibited in Baumann’s first solo show in Indianapolis in February 1913 and was admired for its sculptural structure and painterly effect.

Some Points To Consider

  • Explain the meaning of genre scene to students, and then ask them what everyday events are going on in this woodblock print. Have them describe the ways this scene is characteristic of Indiana in 1914. Ask them what the scene might look like if painted today. (Art 4.1.1, 4.2.2)
  • Give students classroom time to use reference books and computers to research how a woodblock print is made. Ask students to explain how woodcuts differ from other types of printing they have studied, such as lithography. (4.7.3)