Monday, 12 September 2011

Gustave Baumann 1881-1971

I came across these pictures whilst doing my daily search through auction catalogues online and was absolutely amazed by these prints. Not so much by the quality but the estimates of between $1000-4000 each !! wow !! I didn't know woodblock print could be worth so much and from the photos the paper looks dark and brown.


I had to know more - I did know of Baumann but only by reputation. I have never found one or seen one "hands on" in front of me at auction or in a gallery. These two are very striking images, especaily the trees. Not sure about the slightly kitsch dotted line framing the image or the shield seal - these do seem to be typical of his work even if they slightly distracting.



But who is he and why are they so valued. 

Gustave Baumann was born in Germany and moved to America with his parents when aged only 10. From the age of 17 he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before returning to Germany in 1904 to study at the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Munich. During his time in Germany he learnt the techniques involved in woodbock printing. After his return to America he settled in Indiana as part of the Brown County Art Colony where he developed his style of printmaking. Unlike the woodblock revival in Europe he used a printing press rather than the Japanese inspired "handdruck" or hand pressed method.
Baumann's prints were very well recieved and he was awarded a gold Medal at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and from the numbers that survive his work must have been popular. "Prolific" is often a term used in art circles to describe those artist who churned out hundreds of basic formulaic pictures on a purely commercial basis. Is Baumann one of these ?? NO; I don't believe so the quality is maintained and perhaps the quantity can be explained by his use of a printing press rather than more time consuming hand burnishing of the paper on to the inked blocks.


Did he have assistants - inking and printing. Like today "modern artists" Jeff Koons with many "studio assistants" actually making many of the works. Or Andy Warhol ? Well; NO assistants - he controlled all aspects of creating the prints. Cutting, inking and printing - again unlike the Japanese.


Back to my initial thought about values - I checked on www.findartinfo.com and found nearly 200 sales at auction with sales prices up to $22,000 with the majority selling for $3-6000. But why are artists like Oscar Droege NOT worth $1000's, he was prolific and creating many fluid but strikng images which were beautifully printed. Perhaps you need to be a pioneering American based artist to reach these dizzy heights of values.

This one is for sales at www.annexgalleries.com - $25,000
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