The Provincetown Printmakers at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Showcases Works from the Newly Acquired Garfield Collection

On view April 1–October 15, 2023

BOSTON (April 1, 2023)—On the northern tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown has long been regarded as a refuge for artists and a vibrant hub of experimentation and innovation. In the first half of the 20th century, a group of artists, many of whom were women, achieved national prominence for their experimental color woodblock prints—the so-called Provincetown Print. Today, many of the printmakers remain underrecognized despite their contributions to the history of printmaking and modern art in America.

Now on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), The Provincetown Printmakers focuses on the work of six artists: Ada Gilmore Chaffee, Maud Hunt Squire, Ethel Mars, Mildred McMillen, Juliette Nichols and B. J. O. Nordfeldt—all members of the pioneering group that came together in Provincetown to practice color woodblock printing. Generous in spirit, they trained other artists and shared their innovations, helping turn Provincetown into a renowned center for printmaking. The nearly 50 inventive prints on view build on the traditions of Japanese woodcuts and European modernism, using bold colors and dramatic lines to illustrate coastal houses, fishers at work, and other scenes of daily life on the Cape. A salon-style wall featuring work by students and successors to the original nucleus of printmakers, including the key figure Blanche Lazzell, reveals the persistent creative energy that continues to make Provincetown an artistic destination.

The works in the exhibition are drawn from the collection of the late Leslie and Johanna Garfield, who long supported the MFA. Built over more than 40 years, the Garfield Collection—a partial gift of the Garfields and partial purchase by the Museum—comprises more than 450 works by 55 artists associated with the early 20th-century school of the Provincetown Printers. Thirty-eight of the 55 artists are women, 26 of whom are new to the MFA’s collection—marking this a transformative acquisition for the Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings that will allow curators to shift current, male-dominated narratives.

“Leslie and Johanna’s relentless dedication over decades of collecting ensured a collection that was unparalleled in its breadth and quality. This exhibition celebrates their vision while also being a stepping stone to future opportunities that will help shed more light on the many Provincetown artists who are richly deserving of wider critical attention,” said Edward Saywell, Chair of Prints and Drawings.

The exhibition is on view through October 15, 2023 in the Clementine Brown Gallery.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The MFA brings many worlds together through art. Showcasing masterpieces from ancient to modern, our renowned collection of nearly 500,000 works tells a multifaceted story of the human experience—a story that holds unique meaning for everyone. From Boston locals to international travelers, visitors from all over come to experience the MFA—where they reveal connections, explore differences and create a community where all belong.


Lisa Colli