Monday, April 9, 2012

Blanche Lazzell, Modernist Printmaker

Blanche Lazzell , 1878-1956, was a prolific artist whose career spanned several art movements, namely Post-Impressionism,  Cubism, and Abstraction. She was a painter/printmaker, whose complex compositions and vibrant color were her trademark in the early part of the 20th century. Like Sonja Delaunay, Lazzell's work was also recognized in textile design circles and she became known as one of the earliest US Modernists alongside the more popular Georgia O'Keefe. Her color woodblocks helped establish her fame as a creative force for abstraction, and she was one of the first artists to successfully bring attention to a painterly abstraction in relief.

Born in Maidsville, West VirginiaBorn in Maidsville, West Virginia, she studied art at West Virginia University and then moved to New York to continue her art education with the famed William Merritt Chase at the Art Students League. She eventually went to Europe and settled down for a few years at the famous Parisian artist colony Montparnasse; studying at several academies before setting her stylistic sights upon the 'Moderne' genre. Lazzell later moved back to the US, this time to Provincetown, MA, and remained there the rest of her career.
From the work seen here, Lazzell became known for her fervent interest and pursuit of what is called the “Provincetown print,” a relief method of incised wood-block printing that uses one block instead of using separate blocks for separate colors. Her compositions show a keen understanding of cubism; with a fractured-yet-whole subject matter. Her still-lifes were quite popular, and her color sensibility in the printmaking medium while colorful, retains a subtlety more often seen in Japanese woodblocks.  As a matter of note, Lazzell became so enraptured with the print medium, that she participated in the 1918 exhibition of the Provincetown Printers, (which is recognized as the  First woodblock print society ever formed in the United States.)

Lazzell continually explored a variety of new techniques and media throughout her career, and in the late 1930s, Lazzell even went to study with the master teacher/painter Hans Hofmann, to perfect her  abstract composition skills.  

Today, Lazzell’s prints and paintings are surfacing in private collections and are becoming more frequently seen in art auctions, but one is able to see her works in numerous public collections, namely the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.;  the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York. A book of Lazzell's work recently was published, called "Blanche Lazzell: The Life and Work of an American Modernist written by ROBERT C. BRIDGES, KRISTINA M. OLSON, JANET E. SNYDER 

On a final note, what is also interesting was Grace Martin Taylor, Lazzell's cousin, was  a recognized artist in her own right. A commentary on her work will be forth-coming.

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