Gustave Baumann’s whimsical holiday tradition

woodblock print

Of the many New Mexican artists who worked on Los Poblanos Ranch and La Quinta in the 1930s, Gustave Baumann was certainly one of the most esteemed. The beautifully carved wood doors and fireplace mantle at La Quinta are the work of a master at the top of his game. What is perhaps less well known about Baumann, however, is that he had a wonderful sense of humor. And nowhere was this more apparent than in Baumann's annual holiday card tradition. 

Every year between 1919 and 1970, Baumann created an original holiday card in the style of his renowned hand-carved woodblock prints. Friends and colleagues looked forward to receiving their annual card to see what whimsical design Baumann had come up with for that year. The cards often featured joyful references to New Mexican traditions and culture. They also reflected on current times, covering periods of peace, war and uncertainty. Baumann's designs were playful and witty, showing a confidence in his printmaking skills and a freedom from the pressures of more serious art projects.

The cards were a way for Baumann, his wife Jane and daughter Ann to keep in touch with friends near and far. One family on the annual recipient list was John Gaw Meem, architect of Los Poblanos and La Quinta, his wife Faith and their daughter Nancy. The Meems also lived in Santa Fe and were friendly with the Baumann family. Meem often sent his own holiday cards, such as this one featuring a traditional Christmas sketch done, rather fittingly, on architectural paper.

baumann prints

In 2014, the New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe staged an exhibit of holiday cards donated to the museum by the Ann Baumann Trust. Included in the collection were original cards created by Baumann, as well as cards sent to Baumann from dozens of fellow New Mexican artists including Will Shuster and Ernest and Mary Blumenschein. A companion book, Gustave Baumann and Friends: Artist Cards from Holidays Past, was published the same year and beautifully encapsulates the warmth, kinship and talent among this artistic community. 

While we can't gather as usual this holiday season, we are taking a cue from Baumann and keeping in touch with loved ones through creative means this year. From our Los Poblanos family to yours, we wish you all the best for a happy and healthy holiday, and brighter days ahead in the new year. 

All images courtesy of the Gustave Baumann Collection at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A.

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