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.