b. LaGrange, IL, 1895–d. Ashland, OR, 2002
Hazel Hannell (born Mary Hazel Johnson) grew up in LaGrange, Illinois. She studied at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (SAIC) and the Church School of Art in Chicago. Hannell's early work included fabric and wallpaper designs for Marshall Field and Company. She was trained as a painter—both oils and watercolor—but also made woodblock prints and pottery in both porcelain and Indiana red clay. Hazel married Vinol Hannell, a fellow artist, in 1923. Both the Hannells were friends with Jane Addams and lived at the Hull House for a time, helping to run the Hull House kilns.
Hazel and Vin often visited fellow artists and friends, Frances Strain and Fred Biesel, in Furnessville, Indiana. In the early 1930s the Hannells bought land and built a summer home there, too. They became active supporters for the preservation of the Indiana Dunes, which Hazel often represented in her paintings. After the Depression, the couple moved there permanently and converted a chicken coop into a pottery workshop, where Hazel made pots from the native red clay. The sales supplemented their income and allowed Vin to devote himself to painting, which, it has been argued, explains why Vin’s career gained greater recognition from the art establishment than Hazel’s.
Hazel produced many block prints, contributing regularly to the Chicago Society of Artists block print calendar. Both artists served as leaders in the No-Jury Society and the Chicago Society of Artists. They were founding members of the Association of Artists and Craftsmen of Porter County—the sponsoring institution of the Chesterton Art Fair.
Hazel’s watercolor drawing, Boy with Dog, with its simplified forms and angled composition, reflects her interest in the ideas of art educator Arthur Wesley Dow, who promoted principles of Japanese art.
After Vin died in 1964, Hannell continued her artwork and environmental activism. In the 1980s, she lived in Ajijic, Mexico, during the winter months. In 1988, she moved to Oregon to live and work with her good friend, artist Harriet Rex Smith (b. 1921), and spent the rest of her life there. She painted until she was 103 years old and died in February of 2002 at the age of 106.
Hazel Hannell. Biography by the Illinois Women Artist’s Project, http://iwa.bradley.edu/artists/HazelHannell;
Urbanik, Vicki. Hazel Hannell, Obituary. Chesterton Tribune, February 7, 2002. ]http://chestertontribune.com/Obituaries%202002/hazel_hannell_remembered_as_dune.htm]
Weininger, Susan. Hazel and Vin Hannell: Two Lives in Art. Valpairaiso, IN: Valpairaiso University Museum of Art, 1994.
Yochim, Louis Dunn. Role and Impact: The Chicago Society of Artists. Chicago: Chicago Society of Artists, 1979.
Artist image: Westchester Township History Museum, Chesterton, IN.