Years ago, while investigating an archival file of letters for a different book, Bertha E. Jaques and the Chicago Society of Etchers (Madison NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002), a comment concerning a wood block artist caught my eye. Mrs. Jaques wrote that this artist “…does the most delectable block prints…”
Since Jaques was not in the habit of praising artists other than etchers, I remembered the name: Norma Bassett Hall.
Later, I came across Hall’s name again in a 1917 Oregonian article, and realized that she was born twenty-five miles from my home.
After seeing some prints, I resolved to research this unknown artist, in spite of the fact that I could not immediately track down her papers. Ten years later, I still have not found her personal papers, and no longer expect to. I have, nevertheless, found much on this intriguing woman. My research has morphed through unpredictable stages, and taken me down roads never imagined.
My son in Portland, Oregon, called me one day to say that an acquaintance was on Antiques Road Show with a Hall print she had found at Goodwill for $1.49. It was stunning, and evaluated at almost one thousand times that value. Read about this “Antiques Roadshow” appraisal.
I have since pursued her through France, visited her homes in New Mexico, Kansas and Oregon, found stories of her lunching with friends on the Willamette River in Portland. I believe I am nearing the end of the research road, yet I am sure that her full life leaves information I still have not uncovered, thus I am making an appeal for information anyone may have for the upcoming book, Norma Bassett Hall: Catalogue Raisonne of the Block Prints and Serigraphs.
The book is being published by Pomegranate, in Portland, Oregon.