Artist Gustave Baumann immigrated with his family to the United States from Germany when he was ten years old. Soon after settling in Chicago, Baumann’s father left the family and young Gustave assumed responsibility for supporting the household.
At the age of sixteen he began full-time work in a commercial engraving house and took night classes in drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago to, in his words, “get a little closer to art.” Baumann began work at an advertising studio and by 1903 had opened his own studio.
As soon as he had saved one thousand dollars in the new business, Baumann gave one half of the earnings to his mother and used the other half to travel Munich to enroll in the School of Arts and Crafts located there. At the time, Munich printmakers were producing bold, innovative designs, designs that so deeply impressed Baumann they influenced the work produced the rest of his life.
Upon returning to the United States, Baumann continued to earn an income from advertising and illustrating commissions, while devoting more and more time to painting and to creating woodblock prints. In the years before and during World War I his work won several prestigious awards, including a gold medal from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.
When he was in his mid-thirties, Baumann moved to the East Coast from Indiana. He lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, before finally departing for the southwest and settling in New Mexico, his home for more than fifty years. From his studio in Santa Fe he made artistic forays to the Grand Canyon and other scenic parts of Arizona, the valley of the upper Pecos, the Pacific Coast, Colorado, and Texas. His woodblocks are noted for the clarity with which they capture the character of the American Southwest, a region at once delicate and rugged, personal and mythic.