Distinguished Artist Series


The Life and Art of Karl Baumann

by Lauri Hoffman, Curator



Easter Morning, 1950, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches

In Baumann's paintings, as in his life, nature served as a sanctuary from the horrors of war, poverty, and the noise of industry. After facing such realities, he would retreat into the kaleidoscopic world of color and form. Untifled (Pathway through the trees),1939, illustrates Baumann's favorite path in Golden Gate Park where he would take his daily stroll. Greens, blues, yellows and reds vibrate with life. The pathway that meanders through the trees opens up in the foreground so as to invite the viewer to enter nature's wonderland.

The abstract is explored in Untitled (abstract),1939 and in "Two Dimensional Still Life," 1939, where subject matter gives way to form and color. Objects are reduced into their elemental shapes and reorganired to express a new order. In Baumann's will, he wrote, "As for my works of art, they were created to learn something about mother nature, abstract or otherwise, to find order and beauty and to form a way of life."

Beginning in 1939, Baumann's paintings were exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the nation. His paintings appeared in such institutions as the San Francisco Musuem of Modern Art, the Oakland Art Gallery, the Palace of the Legion of Honor (San Francisco), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Dayton Art Institute (Ohio), and the Phillips Collection (Washington, D.C.).

Baumann's first one man show featured 24 watercolors at the Paul Elder Gallery in San Francisco (1939). In a review of the exhibition, Alfred Frankenstein wrote, "These pictures are explosive and smashing affairs, done with great vigor and freedom. His work gives one a sense of immediate, spontaneous improvisation, as if it were all splashed down in a hurry in response to an intense and excited visual experience. His line is swift and clean and flying, his color warm and fiery and eloquent."

In 1940, Baumann won a competition for the U.S. Maritime Commission for panels in the cocktail lounge of the S.S. President Hayes. Both panels were abstracted still lifes where a wine bottle and glasses were diminished into essential formal elements on a two dimensional plane.

Above Right: Mountain Road, 1956, oil on canvas, 16 x 20 1/8 inches

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 10/28/11

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