Mar 7, 2008

The Pile Driver

The Pile Driver


Blanche Lazzell

(American, 1878–1956)

Color woodcut

Support: Laid paper

Sheet: 35.5 x 46 cm (14 x 18 1/8 in.); Image: 30.5 x 35.5 cm (12 x 14 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund with the addition of a gift from Mrs. Edward B. Greene 1998.75



Between 1912 and 1914 Lazzell studied in Paris, where she was exposed to the most avant-garde styles, but she returned to the United States with the outbreak of World War I. In 1915 she joined other artists who had settled in Provincetown, Massachusetts, already an art colony. Many of these friends made color woodcuts and it was B. J. O. Nordfeldt who revolutionized the process. Fellow artist Ada Gilmore explained how the innovative Nordfeldt devised what is known as the Provincetown Print: "Nordfeldt soon became impatient with the mechanical labor of cutting so many blocks of wood [one for each color] before he could express his idea; one day he surprised the other by exhibiting one block, with his complete design on that, instead of parts of it being cut on five or six blocks. He had cut a groove in the wood to separate each color, and, in printing this left a white line which emphasized the design. With his invention he had produced a more beautiful picture and eliminated much work." The Pile Driver is the first Provincetown Print to enter the museum's collection. This method was adopted by Lazzell, who produced many of the most imaginative prints of the early 20th century.

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