A remarkably talented, versatile, and innovative artist, Blanche Lazzell experimented with Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, Cubism, and abstraction in her paintings and prints, and was among the earliest modernists in the United States. Her boldly designed and lushly painted oils and her vibrantly colored and exquisitely executed color woodblocks helped establish her fame as a creative force in modern American art during the first decades of the twentieth century.
Lazzell was born in Morgantown, West Virginia. At an early age she decided that her education was more important than a conventional married life. While at West Virginia University she boldly expressed: “I am going to be an independent maiden lady. And I will show people I can be as happy as anyone.” Lazzell’s innate sense of self-reliance served her well and gave her the freedom and confidence she needed to study art. In 1907-8 she trained at the Art Students League in New York with William Merritt Chase. In 1912 she embarked on a summer trip to Europe with a group of women. In the fall of that year she returned to Paris where she enrolled at the Academie Julian and Académie Moderne. Her study at the Académie Moderne was best suited to her artistic style and sensibility. There, the landscapes of Paul Cezanne were an important teaching source and influence, which Lazzell would carry with her after her return to the States.
After her study in Paris, Lazzell went back and forth from Morgantown, West Virginia to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she spent a few summers studying with Charles Webster Hawthorne and also most importantly was introduced to color woodblock printing. Lazzell was a naturally gifted printmaker, and her prints won consistent critical acclaim. Indeed, today, Lazzell is best known for her graphic work. Yet, she considered herself first and foremost a painter. Lazzell gravitated toward a modernist artistic style. She moved to Provincetown permanently in 1917, when the town was bustling with expatriate European artists and writers seeking to escape the First World War. Lazzell’s affiliation with the Provincetown Printers, a group of exceptional women printmakers, brought her into the inner circle of American modernists living and working in the village. In 1923 Lazzell returened to Europe and studied with Albert Gleizes, André Lhote, and Fernand Lége and embarked on an intensive study of Cubism. Her strong interest in structure, geometry and vibrant color became the hallmark of her mature style.