Lilian Westcott Hale: American Impressionist and Portraitist

halewomanresting1
Lilian Westcott Hale (1880-1963), Woman Resting, (c.1920s), Oil on canvas, 20 x 14”  Signed upper right, Source: Florence Griswold Museum

Who is Lilian Westcott Hale?

Lilian Westcott Hale, daughter of a businessman and piano teacher, is remembered as one of America’s most successful Impressionist painters of the Boston School. She was born in 1881 in Hartford, Connecticut, and began her art education in 1900 at the School of Fine Arts in Boston. An important member of the Boston School of Impressionists, Lilian Westcott Hale won national recognition for her portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes. Today, both her paintings and drawings are praised for their beauty, harmony, and craftsmanship.

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Lilian Westcott Hale, Self Portrait,

Lilian studied at the Hartford Art School (1897-1900), then attended the Boston Museum School (1900-04) on scholarship. Though she married painting instructor Philip Hale in the middle of her training, Lilian’s first solo show was in 1908, also the year of the birth of the Hales’ only child, Anna Westcott Hale, called “Nancy” (see Nancy Hale Papers).

Lilian made portraits, landscapes, and still life paintings, exhibiting often through the 1920s. Philip Hale’s sudden death in 1931 interrupted a period of intense activity. When she was able to return to making art, Lilian felt that her work “was out of step with the times.” Still, she continued to produce. In 1953, she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, to be closer to her daughter. She died while on a visit to her sister in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1963.

GoogleScreenshot_2018-11-21 Lilian Westcott Hale - Google Arts Culture
LILIAN WESTCOTT HALE (1881–1963) , Home Lessons, 1919, Oil on canvas, 46 x 40 in., Source: Phillips Collection

A Wide Range of Work

Lilian Westcott Hale’s typical subject matter includes portraiture, genre interiors, still life, landscapes and “outdoor subjects animated with figures drawn to perfection and delicately refined in nature.”(Pierce Galleries, Inc. )

Though accomplished in each of these areas, Lilian Westcott Hale is perhaps best known for her portraiture. In a review in the Boston Globe, Christine Temin states,

“Her drawings are veiled in a soft haze, the product of a technique based on thousands of wispy vertical strokes. While other figures in this show trumpet their importance, gazing assertively at the viewer, the women in Hale’s drawings are caught in intimate, contemplative moments. And while other interiors in the show are stuffed with Oriental porcelain and fine antiques, Hale’s untitled 1930 room featuring a multi-paned window casting geometric shadows on the floor, has a Shaker simplicity.[5

Screenshot_2018-11-21 Lilian Westcott Hale - Google Arts Culture
LILIAN WESTCOTT HALE (1881–1963) ,Home Lessons, 1919, Oil on canvas, 46 x 40 in., Source: Phillips Collection, (detail)

What Made Lilian’s Portraits Special?

Lilian Westcott Hale sketching, 1902
Lilian Westcott Hale sketching, 1902, Smith College Archives, Sophia Smith Collection

In his book, The Boston Painters, R. H. Ives Gammell says:

“She had a flair for picking the revealing gesture which expressed her sitter and then off-setting its dominant lines with aptly chosen surroundings so as to create a tapestry of shapes and colors which enchant the eye.

Her portraits charm us as decorative wall hangings in the same degree that they fascinate as revelations of character. This twofold triumph is especially noteworthy in her portrayals of children.” [4]

“She had a flair for picking the revealing gesture which

expressed her sitter and then off-setting its dominant lines

with aptly chosen surroundings so as to create a tapestry

of shapes and colors which enchant the eye.”[4]

R. H. Ives Gammell in his book, The Boston Painters

Screenshot_2018-11-21 1919_3_l jpg (JPEG Image, 733 × 864 pixels)
Lilian Westcott Hale (1880-1963), When She Was a Little Girl, ca. 1918, Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 3/16 in. (91.4 x 76.7 cm.), John Lambert Fund, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

 

“Her portraits charm us as decorative wall hangings

in the same degree that they fascinate as

revelations of character. This twofold triumph is especially

noteworthy in her portrayals of children.” [4]

R. H. Ives Gammell in his book, The Boston Painters

 

Alice (Sit-by-the-Fire) - NCMALearn
Lilian Westcott Hale, American (1880-1963), Alice (Sit-by-the-Fire), 1925, Dimensions 36 x 30 in.(91.4 x 76.2 cm), Source: NCMA, Credit: Bequest of Clarence Poe in memory of his wife, Alice Aycock Poe.

“Like Mary Cassatt and other female artists of her day, Hale devoted much of her attention to the sheltered world of women, especially girls. ‘Alice (Sit-by-the-Fire)’ offers a moment of introspection, the silence accented by the soft lighting andmuted tones of the artist’s palette. The artist also bathes the scene in warm nostalgia for a simpler time – note the colonial-period interior, which is actually the artist’s studio in Dedham, Massachusetts.”

North Carolina Museum of Art

 

Screenshot_2018-11-21 Lilian Westcott Hale Lady with a blue fan (1916) MutualArt
Lilian Westcott Hale, Lady with a blue fan, 1916, oil on panel, 30 x 25in, Source: MutualArt

Boston School of Impressionism

Lilian Westcott Hale’s work is associated with the Boston School of American Impressionism.[6] Hale studied at the Hartford Art School with Elizabeth Stevens, and in 1899 with William Merritt Chase at the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art on Long Island. Her art education continued at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with Edmund Tarbell.

 

“Boston artists would develop an Impressionism

that centered on people.

In Connecticut the focus was place.”

Florence Griswold Museum

 

Screenshot_2018-11-21 eMuseumPlus - The Convalescent (Zeffy in Bed)
Lilian Westcott Hale, (Hartford, CT 1880 − St. Paul, MN 1963), The Convalescent (Zeffy in Bed) ,1906, oil on canvas, 30 3/16 × 22 inches (76.676 × 55.88 cm), Sheldon Museum of Art, Nebraska Art Association, Beatrice Rohman Fund.

“American Impressionists

wanted their pictures to be intimate and inviting.

Close viewpoints, off-center compositions, cropped edges,

compressed space, bright colors, and sketch-like brushwork

were among the ways in which they achieved their goals.”

Florence Griswold Museum

 
Portrait of Agnes Doggett
Lilian Westcott Hale, American, 1881 – 1963,  Floretta [Portrait of Agnes Doggett, Later Mrs. Charles Ruddy], ca. 1914, Black chalk over charcoal and graphite on cream laminated drawing board, 74.1 x 58.5 cm (29 3/16 x 23 1/16 in.) Gift of the Friends of The Art Museum, Source: Princeton University Art Museum

‘Floretta’, or ‘Portrait of Agnes Doggett’

A member of the Boston School of Impressionists, Hale focused on capturing the diffusion of natural light in domestic interior scenes and portraits of women in elaborate dress. Here the sitter is Agnes Doggett, a neighbor who frequently posed as a model for Hale—at twenty-five cents an hour, to help defray the costs of her college education. As the original title, Floretta, denotes, the floral motif of the wallpaper is transposed onto the young woman, whose features emerge from amid petal-like ruffles at her collar and sleeve. This ethereal drawing displays the distinctive technique Hale developed to create an effect similar to silverpoint. Having used sandpaper to file her charcoal sticks to fine points, Hale drew in small vertical stitches…Princeton University Art Museum

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Lilian Westcott Hale (1881-1963) Portrait of a Woman signed ‘Lilian Westcott Hale’ (upper right) pencil and charcoal on paper sight, 22 ¼ x 14 ¼ in. (56.5 x 35.6 cm.), Source: Christie’s.

Charcoal Portraiture “Without Rival”

A gifted draftsman, Lilian Westcott Hale was widely admired for her charcoal style, characterized by the use of fine, vertical strokes.

Hale was a consummate portraitist, particularly in the medium of charcoal, with a contemporary critic writing, “in her drawing it is safe to say that she is without a rival…Mrs. Hale’s drawings disclose a sensitive beauty…Her shading is obtained by an exquisite mingling of the dark and light masses, this neutrality serving to emphasize the forced high-lights and the depths of the blackness which take on richness.” As demonstrated by the present work, “In her black and white portraiture, Mrs. Hale is most successful.” (R.V.S. Berry, “Lillian Westcott Hale–Her Art,” The American Magazine of Art, vol. XVIII, no. 2, February 1927, pp. 67-68)

 

“Your drawings are perfectly beautiful –

as fine as anything could be.

They belong with our old friends

Leonardo, Holbein and Ingres,

and are to me the finest modern drawings

I have ever seen.”

Edmund Tarbell

More Accolades From Mentors

According to Pierce Galleries, Inc.:

l_lwhpaintingz
Lilian Westcott Hale, Drawing of her daughter, Nancy, circa 1914

“Lilian Westcott Hale’s mentor Edmund Tarbell exclaimed after seeing her drawings in the one-woman 1908 Boston show, “Your drawings are perfectly beautiful—as fine as anything could be. They belong with our old friends Leonardo, Holbein and Ingres, and are to me the finest modern drawings I have ever seen” (Philip Hale Papers, Box 53a, Folder 1444, SSC) .

William H. Downes wrote on January 22, 1908 in The Boston Transcript that her drawings were superior to the work of the most admired artists Paul Helleu and Charles Dana Gibson and that they had “a distinct elegance of style.”

In fact, Lilian Westcott Hales drawings are considered more important than her oils because her drawings are poetically tender and remarkably rendered with sensitivity.

How Did Lilian Overcome Social Constructs?

Screenshot_2018-11-21 Lilian Westcott Hale A cover for Harper's Bazaar MutualArt
Lilian Westcott Hale, A cover for Harper’s Bazaar, Pencil and colored chalk on paper, 14 x 10 7/8 in (35.5 x 27.8 cm), Source: MutualArt

Despite being married with a family, Lilian Westcott Hale pursued a thorough art education and produced work throughout her life that marked her as one of the most successful artists of the Boston School.

Today her work is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Academy of Design, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and The Cleveland Museum of Art. [1]

According to The Hale Family in American Art,

Lilian Westcott Hale was the most talented and successful of the Hale artists. She was a member of the first generation of American students able to receive a thorough art education without European study. She managed household duties and motherhood while actively pursuing her art career.”

One Secret to Success: Support From Family

The support of her family was crucial to her success. Philip Leslie Hale wrote to Lilian Westcott while courting her:

“I want what is best for you.  If you feel you want a year or two of foreign study–well–it’s all right…It all rests with you dearest.  Only don’t worry about it.  Whichever way you decide is all right.  What you desire is right.  Why try to decide at all just now?  Just let things slide till it’s borne in on you just what you want to do.  My great and chiefest feeling is that I don’t want you, in the years to come, to look back, and in your heart of hearts regret…I want you to feel that you’ve had a first rate show and haven’t been interfered with–not to feel that ‘it might have been.'”Hale Family in American Art

Lilian Westcott Hale’s mother wrote to her daughter:

“I long to have your brush inspired that it may do those great things that you think it takes a long time of practice and experience for the hand to become responsive to the thought–but it’s coming, Honey, and I hope I shall live to see your work recognized as great.” Hale Family in American Art

I cannot imagine a greater gift than these words.

Thanks for Reading! 🙂

The End

Sources:

Florence Griswold Museum, Hartford Steam Boiler Collection: The American Artist in Connecticut, http://flogris.org/collections/online/hartford-steam-boiler-collection/ , (accessed 21Oct 2018).

Pierce Galleries, Inc, “Lilian Wescott Hale Biography”, 2015, http://www.piercegalleries.com/artists/iart_hale_lilian_westcott.html, (accessed 21 Oct 2018).

Hale Family Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass., Smith College, “Hale Family Papers, 1787-1988”. Asteria.fivecolleges.edu. “Lilian Wescott Hale”, http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/sophiasmith/mnsss90.html , (Accessed 21 Oct. 2018).

“Sophia Smith Collection, Online Exhibits – Across the Generations: Exploring U.S. History Through Family Papers – Arts and Leisure”. Smith.edu., schema 2014–2015 addendum image: Self Portrait of Lilian Wescott Hale  (accessed 21Oct 2018).

Wikipedia contributors, “Lilian Westcott Hale,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lilian_Westcott_Hale&oldid=865095046 (accessed November 21, 2018).

Gammell, R. H. Ives (1986).The Boston Painters: 1900-1930. Orleans, Massachusetts: Parnassus Imprints. (pending).

Princeton University Art Museum, Lilian Westcott Hale, Floretta [Portrait of Agnes Doggett, Later Mrs. Charles Ruddy], ca. 1914, http://artmuseum.princeton.edu/collections/objects/11442 , (accessed 21 Nov 2018).

Norah Hardin Lind, The Hale Family in American Art, exhibit website https://www.halefamilyinamericanart.com/curator.html , (accessed 21 Nov 2018).

http://asteria.fivecolleges.edu/findaids/sophiasmith/mnsss90.html

Image Sources:

Lilian Westcott Hale (1880-1963), Woman Resting, (c.1920s), Oil on canvas, 20 x 14” Signed upper right, Source: Florence Griswold Museum.

HALE, Lilian Westcott. American, 1881–1963, Self-Portrait, Jeffy, n.d., Conté crayon and pastel on medium weight, slightly textured, cream-colored paper, schema 2014–2015 addendum, Smith.edu .

LILIAN WESTCOTT HALE (1881–1963) , Home Lessons, 1919, Oil on canvas, 46 x 40 in., Source: Phillips Collection.

Lilian Westcott Hale sketching, 1902, Smith College Archives, Sophia Smith Collection

Lilian Westcott Hale (1880-1963), When She Was a Little Girl, ca. 1918, Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 3/16 in. (91.4 x 76.7 cm.), John Lambert Fund, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Lilian Westcott Hale, American (1880-1963), Alice (Sit-by-the-Fire), 1925, Dimensions 36 x 30 in.(91.4 x 76.2 cm), Source: NCMA, Credit: Bequest of Clarence Poe in memory of his wife, Alice Aycock Poe.

Lilian Westcott Hale, Lady with a blue fan, 1916, oil on panel, 30 x 25in, Source: MutualArt.

Lilian Westcott Hale, Drawing of her daughter, Nancy, circa 1914, Sophia Smith Collection
(photographic reproduction; photographer unknown) https://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/atg/popuphale9.html

Lilian Westcott Hale, (Hartford, CT 1880 − St. Paul, MN 1963), The Convalescent (Zeffy in Bed) ,1906, oil on canvas, 30 3/16 × 22 inches (76.676 × 55.88 cm), Sheldon Museum of Art, Nebraska Art Association, Beatrice Rohman Fund.

Lilian Westcott Hale (1881-1963) Portrait of a Woman signed ‘Lilian Westcott Hale’ (upper right) pencil and charcoal on paper sight, 22 ¼ x 14 ¼ in. (56.5 x 35.6 cm.), Source: Christie’s.

Lilian Westcott Hale, American, 1881 – 1963 Floretta [Portrait of Agnes Doggett, Later Mrs. Charles Ruddy], ca. 1914, Black chalk over charcoal and graphite on cream laminated drawing board, 74.1 x 58.5 cm (29 3/16 x 23 1/16 in.) Gift of the Friends of The Art Museum, Source: Princeton University Art Museum.

Books I Want:

  • The Boston Painters . Author: RH Ives Gammell
  • Life in the Studio (Lilian and Philip Hale) . Author: Nancy Hale

12 Comments Add yours

  1. lfpessemier says:

    I am so surprised she went to Hartford Art School! I did too, and was eventually Art Librarian there in the late 1970s. Of course, by then, we’d arrived at an almost indistinguishable form of art: conceptualism; but I love her work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WOW!!! What a small world, indeed! I found a whole new group of artists to study while reading about her life. Thanks so much for adding to the story! 🙂

      Like

  2. Love her portraits, especially her “Portrait of a Woman” in pencil & charcoal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That one took my breath away! Thanks for visiting, Rosaliene. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ellem63 says:

    “Portrait of a Woman” is the one I especially liked too! Her work is beautiful … so subtle and sensitive. It’s nice to be introduced to an American artist. I’ve only ever been familiar with the British Impressionists and the Italian Renaissance artists. My education is sadly lacking!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, ellem, one reason I am writing this blog is to rectify my own poor education in fine arts, which has always been on my “someday” list. Thanks so much for visiting and adding your thoughts – much appreciated! 🙂

      Like

  4. jjhiii24 says:

    My personal favorite is Alice (Sit-by-the-fire). The impression one receives from the painting of the experience of sitting by the fire is so familiar and so beautifully rendered that it draws the observer immediately into the moment. All of the most influential works of art accomplish this, but here we see a master work of particular potency in this regard.

    Your own gifts in presenting these works in such an accessible and informative manner, honors the artist as every artist would wish to be honored.

    With gratitude…John H.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so pleased to hear your insight, John! Alice (Sit-by-the-fire) charms me more and more each time I study it. You have clarified exactly why – thanks so much for adding to the conversation and for your generous encouragement. I truly appreciate your visit. 🙂

      Like

  5. The portrait of Lilian Hale as a little girl reminded me of the girl in Manet’s Chemin de Fer

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course I had to google the image, and there is a similarity, isn’t there? Both have that perfect oval face shape….Good memory, davidrpharmer! Thanks for commenting. 😎 Oh, and your watercolors are truly beautiful – I am looking forward to seeing many more of them.

      Like

  6. Thank you much for this post. I didn’t know much about her, so this is marvelous. Love studying about women artists and especially finding some books about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy you liked it, Francine! She is a new artist to me also, and learning about her astonished me. What talent!! Thanks for your visit and your kind words. 🙂

      Like

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