Sunday, September 25, 2016

Gustave Baumann “Fiesta de Santa Fe’s 1926 Parade”

I have written about Gustave Baumann (1881-1971) several times ... the first sentence of that blog says, “More than any other artist Gustave Baumann captured the essence of Santa Fe.”  Now the History Museum in Santa Fe has done an exhibition of his work that doesn’t even cover an entire wall! The single work is a 1926 painting, which Baumann reworked in 1938 recalling the Fiesta Parade of 1926.

The Fiesta has been celebrated in Santa Fe almost every year since 1712.   It commemorates  the retaking of Santa Fe by the Spanish in 1692 after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when they were driven out by the Pueblo Indians.   We must not forget that the Native Americans were here first!  The myth is that it was a peaceful retaking but history says differently.

The Palace of the Governors (now part of the History Museum) in Santa Fe has its own printing press, which produces and reproduces books for sale.  There you can find  a recreation of Baumann’s studio with his tools and other materials.  Tom Leech is its Director and he managed to secure the Baumann painting “Fiesta de Santa Fe’s 1926 Parade” as a gift to the Museum from the Baker-Eddy family who had bought it from the artist.


According to the official website for the Fiesta de Santa Fe it’s mission is “to honor and preserve the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe in accordance with the spirit and letters outlined in the original Fiesta Proclamation issued by the Santa Fe City Council on September 16, 1712.”  When you get behind the scenes of any event there are always politics and frictions below the surface.  In the case of the Fiesta it was both that it was a religious event starting with a mass at the cathedral, a reenactment of the “Entrada” where Don Diego de Vargas reclaimed the city and a parade now known as the “Desfile de la Gente” with floats including one with the fiesta “queen” and her court.   For the past two years there have been demonstrations on the Santa Fe Plaza by Pueblo Indians objecting to the myth that the re-taking of the area by the Spaniards was a peaceful event.

Baumann’s painting is his recollection of when the conflict was about how tired and boring the religious and historical pageant had become.   Together with other artists he plotted to make a fun Pasatiempo parade.  As he himself observed in 1926 “I’ve seen much larger parades where people cried with boredom.   I’ve never seen one where sides ached from the laughter…”

The  hijinks included a the tire blow-out collapsing a Harvey tourist bus constructed by painter John Sloan and a bull fight with a bull made by Bauman (shown upper right) .  On the back of the painting Baumann added a legend with the characters in the parade.   In the archives of the Bauman family Tom Leech found photographs that Baumann took and pages of hand written text about the parade.  Some of those photos have been added to the installation.



The painting has a frame made by the artist that compliments the picture perfectly.  It is not too ornate or too pedestrian.   Here is a detail of the corner of the frame ...



Many museum’s have done one painting or object shows like this and they are often the best because they are perfectly edited and focused.  It is obvious that it is easier to concentrate on just one piece rather that an A to Z show with all the works of art from a single period or country or even one artist.  Here Bauman’s painting provides a historical echo the current discontent with an entrenched community event.

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