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Blanche Lazzell: Becoming an American Modernist

Blanche Lazzell: Becoming an American Modernist explores the pioneering artist’s lifelong pursuit of translating Modernism into an American art form and celebrates her largely unsung achievements in championing abstraction in the United States through painting and printmaking.

Available 12-14 week loan

Exhibition Images

  • Blanche Lazzell Painting X

    Blanche Lazzell, Painting X, 1927, oil on canvas, 50 x 36 in. Art Museum of WVU, Gift of James Reed

  • Blanche Lazzell The White Petunia

    Blanche Lazzell, The White Petunia, 1954, color woodblock print, 14.5 x 12.6 in. Art Museum of WVU, Gift of James C. and Janet G. Reed

  • Blanche Lazzell Justice

    Blanche Lazzell, Justice, 1934, oil on canvas, 95 x 146 in. Art Museum of West Virginia University

  • Blanche Lazzell Hollyhock

    Blanche Lazzell, Hollyhock, 1917, oil on canvas, 25 X 19 in., Art Museum of WVU, Gift of Nancy Watkins in memory of James F. McKinley and Nancy W. McKinley

  • Blanche Lazzell Planes II

    Blanche Lazzell, Planes II, 1952, color woodblock print, 14 x 12 in. Art Museum of WVU, Gift of Harvey D. Peyton

About the Exhibition

This exhibition surveys the full career of American modernist Blanche Lazzell (1878–1956). Celebrated for her masterful white-line woodblock prints, Lazzell considered herself a painter first and foremost—from her early days studying in West Virginia, New York, and Paris through Depression-era Federal Art Projects and as a longtime resident of Provincetown’s vibrant art colony. Including more than 50 paintings, prints, and works on paper drawn primarily from the Art Museum of West Virginia University’s permanent collection, Blanche Lazzell: Becoming an American Modernist explores the artist’s lifelong pursuit of translating Modernism into an American art form and celebrates her largely unsung achievements in championing abstraction in the United States.

Blanche Lazzell was born and raised in the small community of Maidsville, West Virginia. After graduating from West Virginia University with a degree in fine arts in 1905, she sought further instruction, first enrolling at the Art Students League in New York City and then on two extensive trips to Europe. There she immersed herself in the studios of avant-garde artists who explored abstraction through the new movements of Fauvism and Cubism, including Fernand Léger, Andrés Lhote, and Albert Gleizes. Lazzell embraced these influences in her own work, creating some of the first non-objective prints and paintings seen in this country.

She eventually settled in the artist colony of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she worked with Hans Hofmann, co-founded the Provincetown Printers, and became a leading figure in white-line color woodblock printmaking. Near the end of her life, Lazzell was recognized for her pioneering achievements at the pivotal summer gathering of Forum 49 by a group of younger artists who would become known as Abstract Expressionists.

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