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 Norma Bassett Hall  (1889 - 1957)

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/Kansas/Oregon      Known for: color block printing, serigraphy, landscape painting

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Spring-Tesuque Valley
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Most remembered as a woodblock printmaker and one of the founding members of the Prairie Printmakers, Norma Bassett Hall was the only woman member of that group and the only one to establish a reputation exclusively with color prints. 

She was born and raised in Halsey, Oregon, and took her first art lessons at the School of the Portland Art Association, where she studied for three years.  After graduation, she gave private art lessons.

In 1915, she enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating in 1918.  There she was an assistant teacher for one year and met her future husband, Arthur William Hall, who was also a student there and whose studies were interrupted by army service in World War I.  Norma Hall worked on defense projects in a drafting office after her graduation until the end of the war.

In 1920, she returned to Oregon where she opened a studio in Portland and taught in a high school.   Two years later she and Arthur were married.

Her interest in woodblock printmaking dated from 1922 when she was on a Cannon Beach, Oregon honeymoon trip with Arthur.  The couple decided to make a pictorial visit of their trip by copying block prints from a book, and she saw what she described as the "real possibilities" of block printmaking.  She used the Oriental method, which is the mixing of dry color with water and rice-flour paste.

She had a residency in Kansas in 1923, and furthered her interest and skills in color block prints.  She and her husband spent two years in Europe, 1925 to 1927, studying and sketching including time in London and Edinburgh, Scotland where she met Mable Royds, married to etcher E.S. Lumsden.  From Royds, she learned the Japanese woodcut print method on rice paper involving transparent watercolors, which for Hall was a redirection from opaque oilbase colors.  Adopting this approach exclusively for many years, Hall printed with as many as six or seven colors, each requiring a separate handcut woodblock. 

In 1942, the couple moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where her reputation was established for her block prints of the Southwest, especially New Mexico.  After a short time, the couple settled in Alcalde, New Mexico where the couple continued painting and also opened a summer art school.  She began to devote a lot of time to serigraphs of local scenes and also did watercolors.  The subjects of the totality of her work reflect the wide travels of the Halls and include Kansas-farm scenes, Oregon landscapes, European scenes and New Mexico pueblos.

Hall's prints are signed in the bottom right-hand corner, with the edition number printed beneath the lower left side of the image.

Barbara Thompson O'Neill and George C. Foreman, The Prairie Print Makers, pp. 54-55.
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1924; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1925; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1929; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1930; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1932; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1933; 14th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1938; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1939; one-person show Museum of New Mexico, 1952.
Printmakers Society of California; Northwest Printmakers; charter member of Prairie Print Makers.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Halsey, OR, May 21, 1889; d. Santa Fe, NM, May 1, 1957. Painter. Block printmaker. Teacher. Watercolor, spec. scenes of Kansas, Oregon, and New Mexico. Studied at School of Portland Art Association; graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1918. Moved to El Dorado in 1923 where she became interested in color block prints. Lived abroad from 1925-27. Returned to Kansas living in Howard for many years. Moved to Santa Fe, NM in 1942 and then to Alcade, NM in 1950 where she and her husband operated an art school and studio.
Brooklyn Public Library; Smithsonian Institution; Honolulu Academy of Art; California State Library; University of Tulsa; Wichita Art Association; Ulrich Museum; Currier Gallery of Art; Sandzén Memorial Art Gallery; Denver Art Museum; Spencer Museum of Art

Printmakers Society of California; Northwest Printmakers; charter member of Prairie Print Makers.

Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Newlin, Gertrude Dix (Development of Art in Kansas. Typed Manuscript, 1951); American Art Annual. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1898-194722, 24, 26; Festival of Kansas Arts and Crafts. Catalog: Arts and Crafts of Kansas: an Exhibition held in Lawrence, Feb. 18-22, 1948 in the Community Building. Lawrence: World Co., 1948; Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; Sain, Lydia. Kansas Artists, compiled by Lydia Sain from 1932 to 1948. Typed Manuscript, 1948.; Reinbach, Edna, comp. “Kansas Art and Artists”, in Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society. v. 17, 1928. p. 571-585.; Cone, Mary Ellen. The Status of Kansas Literature and Art. Typed manuscript, 1939.; Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1974. Print Connoisseur (July 1931); Collins, Jim, and Glenn B. Opitz, eds. Women Artists in America: 18th Century to the Present (1790-1980). Rev. and enl. ed. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: Apollo, 1980.; American Magazine of Art ( March 1929); Gilbert, Gregory, David C. Henry, and Elizabeth Broun. Kansas Printmakers: Catalogue. Lawrence: Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, c. 1981.; O’Neill, Barbara Thompson, George C. Foreman and Howard W. The Prairie Print Makers. Topeka: Kansas Arts Commission, c1981. 2nd Printing. Wichita: Gallery Ellington, 1984.; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition (Kansas City: Kansas City Art Institute, 1920-1942 Mines, Cynthia. For the Sake of Art: The Story of an Art Movement in Kansas. s.l. Mines, 1979.) 1924-25, 1929-30, 1932-33, 1939; AskArt,, accessed Dec. 16, 2005; Kovinick, Phil and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick. An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998.; Dawdy 3: Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Volume 3. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1985.
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Norma Bassett Hall is best known as a color printmaker of Great Plains, Southwestern, and European landscapes.

Born in Halsey, Oregon, Bassett Hall took three years of study at the Portland Art Association. After teaching for several years she enrolled at the Chicago Art Institute in 1915 and graduated in 1918. She returned to Portland in 1920, opened a studio, and taught art in high school. In 1922 she married Arthur Hall, who had been a fellow student at the Art Institute. The couple settled in El Dorado, Kansas where Arthur had been working.

The Halls became active in a group of central Kansas artists which included several well-known printmaker including Birger Sandzen, C.A. Seward, and Charles Capps. It was during these early years in Kansas that Bassett Hall explored the artistic possibilities of woodblock printing using opaque, oil-based inks.

The Halls spent two years in Europe, from 1925 to 1927, sketching and studying, primarily in France and Britain. In Scotland, they met the noted etcher E.S. Lumsden and his wife, Mabie Royds, a woodblock printmaker. Royds taught Bassett Hall the Japanese techniques of block printing with transparent, water-based inks. Norma and Arthur both studied in Lumsden and Royds' studio for about a year.

Returning to El Dorado, the Halls resumed their friendships with the circle of artists that had formed around Sandzen. In 1930, ten of these artists formally launched an artists' cooperative, the Prairie Print Makers, with Bassett Hall as the only female founding member.

In the late nineteen-thirties, the Halls moved to Virginia to be close to Arthur's family. During World War II they briefly returned to Kansas before settling in Santa Fe where they lived and worked in the Canyon Road home once owned by Gerald Cassidy. In 1950 they moved to Alcalde, New Mexico, about forty miles north of Santa Fe, and operated an art school on their property named Rancho del Rio.

In addition to printmaking, Bassett Hall painted with watercolor and, to a small extent, in oil. She worked in a simplified, representational style reminiscent of Anglo/American printmaking of the Arts and Crafts period. She employed strong color and color contrasts, using up to seven blocks for each print. During her years in New Mexico, Bassett Hall learned the art of serigraphy or screen-printing, and many of her Southwestern scenes were made with this technique.

Biography from Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery:
Norma Bassett Hall

Norma Bassett Hall’s work includes motifs of the coast of Oregon, the pueblos of New Mexico, and the wooded hills of the Shenandoah Valley. At one time Norman and her husband Arthur built a studio on a fifty-acre tract in the valley in order to work in the solitude that all true artists yearn for and seldom find.

Norma graduated in 1918 from the Art Institute of Chicago, at the outbreak of World War I, and her artistic career was sidetracked for a job in a drafting office until the end of the war.

After the Duration she returned to her native Oregon to establish a studio in Portland. In 1922 she married Arthur Hall, sweetheart of Art Institute days now back from the wars and enthusiastic about the beauty of France. This was the beginning of a printmaking team that was to hold joint honors in many an exhibition and yet to continue to work from entirely different approaches and different media.

Norma Hall cuts her blocks for her prints from hard wood, cherry preferred, and cuts as many as six or seven of them for an edition, and handprinted her entire edition by rubbing the back of the print paper of each color block.

Numerous prestigious shows and awards are credited to Norma. Both Norma and Arthur were members of many printmaking societies and were charter members of the Prairie Print Maker Society.

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