Behind every finished woodcut print there are countless preliminary studies, blocks, and trial proofs. Opening on Saturday, Oct. 14, at The University of New Mexico Art Museum, Cottonwood Tassels: Gustave Baumann’s Prints, Proofs, and Process illustrates the steps and materials involved in creating an editioned impression of a woodcut print. Curated by Angel Jiang, the exhibition will be on view in the Clinton Adams Gallery through March 9, 2024.

Cottonwood Tassels presents the UNM Art Museum collection as a teaching resource.

“When I realized that we have a set of working proofs, wood blocks, and a study that shows the progression of one of Baumann’s prints from beginning to end, I thought we had a great opportunity to use this material to demonstrate the process of making a woodcut,” Jiang said. “The aim is that everyone—from those who have little knowledge of printmaking to students and faculty studying and teaching its history and techniques—has something to take away from this exhibition.”

A master colorist and carver, Gustave Baumann (American, b. Germany, 1881-1971) helped revive and popularize the color woodcut in the United States. Cottonwood Tassels (1943) depicts a cottonwood tree at El Mirador Ranch in Alcalde, N.M. Baumann executed every step of the printmaking process himself, using color, line, and the medium’s experimental nature to create evocative images of the Southwestern landscape.

Baumann moved to New Mexico in 1918. A permanent exhibit of his recreated studio featuring Baumann’s press, watermarked papers, hand tools, and the pigments he used to make the ink for his color-saturated woodcut scenes of New Mexico and the Southwest is part of the New Mexico History Museum.

Cottonwood Tassels: Gustave Baumann’s Prints, Proofs, and Process invites visitors to explore the craftsmanship and vision that lie behind every finished woodcut print. Through the display of wood blocks, color proofs, tempera studies, and trial impressions, the exhibition showcases the labor, decisions, and deep understanding of materials involved in Baumann’s artistic practice.

Baumann blocks

Gustave Baumann (American, b. Germany, 1881-1971), Black Cancelled Block for Cottonwood Tassels and Black Progressive Proof for Cottonwood Tassels, c. 1943. Woodblock. Purchase with funds from Elizabeth Wills and the Friends of Art.

Top image: Gustave Baumann (American, b. Germany, 1881-1971), Cottonwood Tassels, 1943. Color woodcut, State I, edition 6/125. Purchase with funds from Elizabeth Wills and the Friends of Art.