Friday, July 8, 2011

Over the Moon: Block Prints

After remembering all the great art we'd seen during our travels in Indiana yesterday, I started doing a little more research on Gustave Baumann, the mantle-carving printmaker who was such a good friend to T.C. and Selma Steele. Baumann was a very prolific woodblock printer who appears to have done a lot of color reduction printing, a method in which one begins with the lightest, broadest color in the piece and gradually carves down and prints each subsequent element with the same block onto the same print, slowly creating the desired image as the shapes become more defined with each new color. It seems he was able to be quite exact with this process, meaning most of his prints are sharp and crisp, though he often seemed to choose ephemeral subjects. For example to the right is his South Water Street Chicago, which illustrates an urban landscape but is also open and atmospheric. Looking through his work today rekindled the love I have always had for prints and, though I have mostly dabbled in intaglio, this sort of woodblock printing reminds me of how beautiful relief printing can be.

Baumann's The Landmark

Baumann's Mathis Alley

As I poked around online looking at his work, I found Baumann had done an interesting collaboration with James Whitcomb Riley, famed Indiana poet. Riley had written a poem for each month out of the year and Baumann illustrated. The final work was called All the Year Round. I only wish I could get my hands on a copy of that, it's completely adorable. I actually found a few of them on eBay; I think Sean and I need to start saving for an art-on-the-wall fund. Below are pictured July and April, respectively.

While I was looking at Baumann another beloved block printer came to mind. I was introduced to her work one Michigan winter by my friend Ellen, who had invited Shannon and I up north to sled down the Sleeping Bear dunes and cross-country ski at her family's vacation home there. Frostic made beautiful and simple nature prints (that simplicity seems to be a theme), some of them similar to Baumann, except when she layers her prints she has made a separate plate to lay down for the background, I think, instead of using the color reduction method. I couldn't find much of Frostic's work online aside from this great little guy:
So I took some photos of the work we have of hers hanging on our wall. These are just some greeting cards I bought at her studio and put into cheap Ikea frames:

On one final note, though perhaps the note about which I am most excited, I found some ancient block prints done a different way. The famous Great Wave by Hokusai from his 36-views of Mt. Fuji series has been recreated in a medium called Tatebanko, which is a Japanese art form where one uses cut out paper to create a three dimensional diorama. I am just smitten with these! They also have a version of Hiroshige's Evening Snow. Both are available for sale here. Enjoy!


  1. the blog looks so so good. MY GOSH. what a great surprise!

  2. also, colorado time, this was posted at 11:11