Sunday, June 29, 2014

Provincetown Prints

Blanche Lazzell, Anemone II

A few years back I did a post about white-line woodblock prints.  It's a printing process that's
uniquely American; in fact, it was invented in Provincetown so the prints are often referred
to as Provincetown Prints.  Unlike traditional woodblock printing where each color requires a different block, this process uses just one block with a tiny groove cut between each section to divide the colors. This method leaves a thin white line separating the colors, hence the name
white-line print  You can see a few of my own white-line prints in this old post about my artwork.

Blanche Lazzell advertising print

The invention of the process is credited to Bror (B.J.O.) Nordfeldt and it was developed by a
small group of artists who were in Provincetown (unable to travel to Europe) during WWI.
The two prints above are by Blanche Lazzell who, arguably, has become the most famous of
the practitioners of this process.  She taught the printing process to the next generation of
artists and it's still practiced and taught today.

The Provincetown Art Association and Musuem, celebrating its 100th anniversary
this year, is now showing an exhibit of Provincetown prints made over the last century.
I wanted share a small subset of that exhibit, the prints from those earliest days that 
show the life and times of people 100 years ago.  The scenes, the dress, the styles
and lifestyles captured in these prints is wonderful.  

Harvest of Sea by Flora Schofield, 1933

Woman Sewing by Maud Squire (etching) ca. 1915

"The Pianist" by Ethel Mars, ca. 1918

Tea Time in Morocco, Bror Nordfeldt, ca. 1916

The Party by Ethel Mars, ca. 1920

"Mother Love" by Edith Wilkinson, 1914

Figures and a Dog, Ada Gilmore, ca. 1916

This is my favorite one.  I've also seen this print titled "Gossip" which I love.
Aren't the outfits great?

Untitled, Mildred McMillen, ca. 1916

This is a great Provincetown scene before automobiles that now line the streets.  A horse and
buddy are perhaps delivering fish or ice.  The sailboats in the harbor seem to be floating the sky.

This amazing show of Provincetown prints work is on exhibit until August 10th, 2014.

Provincetown Art Association and Museum
460 Commercial Street
Provincetown, MA  02657


  1. I love the one called "Gossip" too. These are so charming. I bet that was a really cool exhibit. Did they display any actual blocks used for the prints?

  2. These are quite beautiful. I love the muted somewhat washed out colors and then I saw the black and white one. Wow!

  3. Adore Figures and a Dog and Teatime!. A wonderfully artistic process of block printing!
    Thank you for sharing Steve.
    The Arts by Karena

  4. Thanks for linking back to your old post about the artwork you have created. I love your watercolors! You're very good. Watercolor is a tough medium, in my opinion. Woodblock prints are some of my favorite types of art. Years ago I took a print making class, and I found it very difficult. My brain had a hard time with the negative/positive space thing. It wasn't for me, plus the instructor wasn't very good. I wish I could devote more time to making art and I really wish I could relax and enjoy the process (and not be such a perfectionist).

  5. Love these, apparently simple and yet....P'town's got it all eh?

    xo J

  6. Checked out that old post. Could have knocked me over with a feather. Me, I love the watercolors.But what do I know?

  7. favorite is Red Tide.

    This post made me realize I should go back and read posts prior to the time of my discovery of An Urban Cottage.

  8. Steve! I love your work. That painting of the blue hill and trees is my favorite. I love the daisies too. This is all so cool!

    The p'town prints are awesome. I wasn't planning to go back before September, but maybe I will.

  9. Wow! I've seen these but didn't know the background. The detail is amazing. I hope you are having a good summer. B

  10. These are charming, Steve, and of the ones shown here, I like "Tea Time in Morocco," which reminds me of something Matisse would paint. Having said that, I visited your own artwork and think that it outshines what I see on this posting, which is another way of saying that I think you are a very good artist indeed!

  11. Lovely, just lovely. How did our lives get so complicated and aggressive?Thanks you for your post. It brings a grace note into my life. Ann

  12. I love Gossip - so charming and sassy! Now what are they chatting about...Hmmm? And you are very talented! Didn't know you painted. Wanna come to Castine and paint? Have a great 4th! We're heading up very soon.

    1. Gorgeous - love them all. Thank you for the art lesson. I like "Gossip" too - lovely colours. I am in love with that dusty rose colour (for lack of a better descriptor) and see it in several of them. I love the Pianist too - love the man in the suit standing there all debonair.
      I feel like your inner artist comes to life in really resonates with you. Maybe you had a past life there.

      xo Terri

  13. The muted colors are wonderful...I really like the first one

  14. Hi Ron! Just wanted to let you know I mentioned you and your wonderful blog in my post today. Now I have to start planning a trip to Provincetown!

  15. Just tuned in again after a long hiatus and here you are showing some beea-utiful art again!
    Who knew you were once a printmaker. That was my major at art school too. This gives me the opportunity to once again call you a clever clogs and say Hi!