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Blanche Lazzell

Blanche Lazzell
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Blanche Lazzell

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Blanche Lazzell (1878-1956) was an American Modernist Printmaker. Born and educated in West Virginia, but best known as a Cape Cod artist. She was an innovative force in the group of woodblock printers known as the Provincetown Printers, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Blanche Lazzell was a master of the white-line woodcut, or Provincetown Print. Provincetown Backyards, printed in 1926, is an urban landscape in Japanese style vertical perspective of a Provincetown neighborhood, and has descended in the family of the original owner, a Provincetown resident in the 1920s.

White-line woodcuts were carved into a single block and each section was “inked” in watercolor. The divisions between the inked sections form the distinctive white lines in the print. Impressions were pulled by means of pressure from a spoon on the back of lightly dampened Japanese paper. This laborious process necessarily limited the number of prints that could be produced, and also resulted in each print being unique in tone. Although, Lazzell was the most important practitioner of this art form, the process was actually invented by another member of the Provincetown Printers, Bror J.O. Norfeldt.

Although still uncommon, a number of women artists began to emerge in the early 20th century. Lazzell studied with William Merritt Chase, and in Paris at the Academie Moderne with Charles Guerin, a champion of modernism. She first established a studio in Provincetown in 1915, returning to Paris from 1923-1924 and studying with Fernand Leger, Andre Lhote, and Albert Gleizes. From 1923 to 1930 she exhibited at the Salon d’Automne. In 1926, she returned to Provincetown, where she constructed a new art studio.

The print is titled in graphite on the face at lower left: Provincetown Backyards. At lower right it is signed: Blanche Lazzell – 1926. As is typical of Lazzell it is also inscribed on the reverse: 149/2 | Provincetown Backyards | Blanche Lazzell | Provincetown Mass. The numbering of the print is in Lazzell’s unusual system, where the first number indicates all prints she had created to that date, and the second number indicates the number of copies of the individual wood block as of the date of printing. 149/2 indicates that as of the day of printing in 1926, Lazzell had produced 149 total impressions from all woodblocks, and 2 impressions from the block for Provincetown Backyards.