The History Museum in Santa Fe had the wonderful idea to mount a small Christmas card show for this holiday season; “Gustave Baumann and Friends; Artist Cards from Holidays Past” curated by Tom Leech, director of the Palace Press, and guest curator Jean Moss. Baumann was a German-born artist who came to Santa Fe in 1918. He was already well known in the U.S. as a print maker when he came here. The wide distribution of prints throughout time has spread images across time and nations. So it was with Baumann’s prints of New Mexico making this part of the world better known throughout the states and internationally.
Ann Baumann, Gustave and Jane’s daughter, left to the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library in Santa Fe a collection of original cards that her parents had received and others that they had sent. There are about 400 cards in the collection and one quarter of them have been chosen for this exhibition. Here is a photo of Jane and Gustave Baumann with their daughter Ann in 1954 courtesy of the Ann Baumann Trust.
The tradition of Christmas cards started in the times of Charles Dickens and soon were printed en masse by commercial houses. If you have ever sent out Christmas cards you know it can be an expensive endeavor and artists usually do not have that kind of money to spend frivolously. Many of them therefore made and printed their own.
The cards in this show are cleverly divided into categories such as, Angels and Madonnas, Santa and the Mailman, and Greeting Irreverent and Belated plus many others. Of course, since the period of 1918 to 1971 when Baumann died included the Great Depression there is a selection from that time as well.
As said, the show is quite small and in a long narrow gallery but it is dense with gems. It is a bit like one of those racks of sayings you might find at the Five and Dime and can’t tear yourself away from. One is continuously surprised by the humor and insights on the cards.
In 1929 the Baumanns received a very appropriate and simple Christmas card from their friends Mary Lou and Oswald Cooper, it says, “We view with frugal disregard; The customary Christmas Fuss; You may have heard that times are hard- This card is all you’ll get from us”.
The label for the card of mother and child says “Jenny Owens, age 17, linocut, date unknown. I had a dyslexic moment and read instead of undated, updated, which I thought appropriate for this particular Holy Family.
Playing on the fact that there is too little rain in New Mexico and water is a continuous source of anguish one of the Baumann greetings says, “The Baumanns send you their best umbrella: Just in case it decides to rain in 1955”. The printing process was woodcut and marble papered collage and came from the collection of David Carter and Geneva Austin.
In 1956 the Baumanns came up with a theme that I would love to appropriate considering our interest in the Hopi tribal culture. It says, “The Hopi are a Peaceful People, Here’s to a Hopi Year for all of us”.
The exhibition also includes audio of the family’s reminiscences and all in all opens a time capsule into the life of an artist, family and friends.