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Lazzell Prices and Sales Keep Moving Up
Cape Cod in Autumn brought $65,500
For Sale: Indian Head, Woodstock, NY, 1917
Think Marsden Hartley
Blanche Lazzell
Oil on Canvas
(16 X 18)
(Call 646-239-6142)
Abstraction XI, sold for
$505,000 at Sotheby's
The artist dressed to paint
Paris 1914
Woodblock Portrait in
pioneering white line style
Village Road brought $56,400
CURATOR'S COMMENTS: Like Maurice Prendergast, Blanche Lazzell was challenged by hearing
impairment and focused her entire energy on visual representation. She is one of America's earliest
artists favoring abstract cubism and a determined modernist. Not a coal miner's daughter, she was born
in 1878 and grew up on a farm in Maidsville, West Virginia. The Lazzells were devout Methodists,
attending the Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church, and Nettie Blanche was the ninth of ten children. She
was determined to learn. At fifteen, she enrolled in the West Virginia Conference Seminary; in 1899 she
enrolled in the South Carolina Co-educational Institute, and became a teacher at the Red Oaks School in
Ramsey, South Carolina. But determined to study art, she entered West Virginia University in 1901. New
York beckoned, and she enrolled in the Art Students League in 1908 where she studied under painters
Kenyon Cox and William Merritt Chase. She was a student alongside Georgia O'Keeffe.

In 1912, Lazzell sailed on the SS Ivernia, beginning her first period of European study. She lived in
Montparnasse, attended lectures by Florence Heywood and Rossiter Howard, and took classes at the
Académie Julian and other schools popular with American painters. But she soon moved to the
Académie Moderne, where she studied with painter Charles Guérin and also avant-gardist David Rosen.
In February 1913, she joined four other young women on a six-week sketching tour of Italy. But she
returned to Paris via Germany to study with Guérin, who helped her focus on landscape works. She
returned to Morgantown in 1914, where she rented a studio, and supported herself by selling
hand-painted china.
Lazzell journeyed to Provincetown at the tip of Massachusetts’s Cape Cod in 1915, quickly joining the
flourishing artist colony. Stella Johnson and Jessie Fremont Herring, two of Lazzell's companions from
her tour in Italy, were already in Provincetown and Lazzell stayed with Johnson's mother. She studied
with Charles Webster Hawthorne, where she was exposed to the Fauvist style, and later with painting
instructor, Oliver Chaffee, who taught her the new white-line woodcut technique innovated by Arthur
Wesley Dow. Eventually she joined the Provincetown Printers collective, and her work was recognized.  

In the summer of 1918, Lazzell moved to Provincetown permanently, converting an old fish house
overlooking the bay into a studio. She spent the winters in Morgantown and Manhattan until 1922, but
rebuilt the vine-covered studio for year-round occupancy in 1926. Her friends included Ada Gilmore,
Agnes Weinrich and modernist Otto Karl Knaths. She became close with Simeon C. Smith, a former WVU
English professor who had retired to Provincetown, and while the couple became romantically
entangled, they never married. In 1919, Lazzell was featured in an exhibition in Manhattan at the
Touchstone Gallery alongside Weinrich, Mary Kirkup, and Flora Schoenfeld that was widely reviewed for
its modernism. The show included Lazzell's depiction of The Monongahela, which brought her national

Interestingly, this important wood-block work was cut in Woodstock, NY, at the Byrdcliffe artist colony
and in the studio of William E. Schumacher. Toward the close of 1916, Lazzell had traveled to Manhattan,
where she studied color with Schumacher and with Homer Boss. She followed Schumacher to
Woodstock in the summer of 1917, where she also studied with William Zorach and, more importantly,
Andrew Dasburg. It was in this period that she painted Indian Head, Woodstock, which is dated 1917, and
which shows, as her chief critic Grace Glueck has noted, her "fine sense of rhythmical massing." We
see early Marsden Hartley in this work. The influence of Cézanne a la Dasburg is also present. In terms
of provenance, Indian Head, Woodstock was sold as Mountain Landscape at Christie's (l1/20/1990) and
Woodstock Mountains at Philips (11/28/2000).

With his recent first wife, sculptor Grace Mott Johnson, who was known to Lazzell, Dasburg (who had
studied with Matisse and Cezanne) had a strong impact on the Woodstock artist community. Dasburg
had exhibited at the Armory Show. He separated from Johnson in 1917, and soon began teaching
painting in Woodstock and in New York City. Lazzell also knew of his involvement with Ida Rauh, a co-
founder of the famous drama group the Provincetown Players, and she was strongly influenced by
Dasburg at this time.

Lazzell returned to Europe in 1923, and this trip brought new energy to her work. She settled in Paris
late that summer, where she studied cubism and geometric design directly with Fernand Léger, André
Lhote and Albert Gleizes, and she exhibted in the Salon. She was particularly influenced by Gleizes and
produced a series of abstract paintings, which were received with wide acclaim. Lazzell was a member
of the international arts group Société Anonyme and was asked by artist and patron Katherine Dreier to
be on its board of directors in 1928. Lazzell later joined the New York Society of Women Artists and the
Society of Independent Artists. Finally, in 1935, she studied with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, and his
influence can readily be seen in the asymmetry of her later works. In 1956, Lazzell's health began to fail
and she was hospitalized in Massachusetts where she died after a stroke.

Early oils by Lazzell are often rare, particularly because after her death in Massachusetts, her inventory
was returned to her family in West Virginia and remained out of the public eye for many years. Recent
discoveries, retrospective exhibitions, and restoration have brought to light Lazzell's abstract
paintings, helping scholars to establish the artist's importance in chronicles of the early adoption of
abstraction in the United States. Her works appear in numerous public collections, including the
Smithsonian, the Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Whitney Museum of
American Art.
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