Sunday, January 17, 2010

a tale of two hales

To the left, my small thumbnail
marker pen value sketch of Ellen
Hale's "Morning News" from the
magazine article.
Victoria Magazine February 2002
In this Victoria magazine article, February 2002, the author Claire Whitcomb tells of two sisters-in-law, that were pursuing careers as professional artists. Ellen and Lilian Hale.

Ellen was born 1855 into one of Boston's most prominent families. Her father was the author and clergyman Edward Everett Hale and the grand niece of Harriet of Harriet Beecher Stow. Her mother encouraged Ellen and her seven brothers (in particular Philip) to draw. She later assisted Philip with his career as an artist.

In the 1870's she studied with William Morris Hunt, the city's foremost painter, who took on forty female pupils. Ellen finished her training in Paris, exhibited to critical acclaim and made her living as an artist until she died in 1940.

She paved the way for a second wave of women , among them a twenty year old, Lilian Westcott. Lilian was from Hartford Connecticut, and enrolled at Boston's Museum School in 1900, taking advanced drawing and skipping a class taught by Ellen's younger brother Philip Hale. She would recall later "I always took it for granted, being successful, I assumed I would be."

So did Philip Hale who courted her. Lilian did not want to marry and mix her art with marriage, but Philip persisted. He was 17 years her senior, an accomplished artist, teacher and critic. He is quoted, telling her, "We shall have you a great painter one of these days". They married in 1902 and had adjoining studios in Boston. In 1908 a daughter, Nancy, was born. When people would admire his paintings he would say "wait until you see Mrs. Hale's pictures.

Lilian's best subject was her daughter. Nancy was quoted as saying "I had to pose so much in childhood that when I reached the age of about 13 I finally figured out a requirement of my own. I wouldn't pose, I said, unless I could be painted with a book. So all subsequent picture pictures show me in the act of reading. Several are silhouetted against a window: some show the book, some don't but have the eyes downcast".

Philip continued to paint and teach in Boston. Once home he's go straight to Lilian's studio, receive a kiss and a call for a critique. He was needed in her career because of his unwavering vision of her as "the loveliest and noblest and most talented creature that ever was." When she was exhausted from jelly making, Phillip fussed. "The only thing my father ever wanted my mother to do was paint," wrote Nancy.

Having Ellen in the family and as a very important role model, it seemed that being a woman and an artist was not unusual. When Philip died unexpectedly in 1931, he was 65, she was 49 and forlorn. After 5 unhappy and lost years she came around and mounted a solo show. It was not well received. Modernism had set in. She never contemplated another solo exhibition but continued drawing. She would have Nancy's children sit for her. In 1963, before he death at 83, she won her final prize for a charcoal of a young girl given by Rockport Art Association.

The article ends with a wonderful quote from 1900, painter Anna Lea Merritt, The chief obstacle to a woman's success is that she can never have a wife." ~ Don't you love that quote? ~
The author goes one to say Lilian and Ellen Hale managed just the same.

If you enjoyed reading about these two, you may also enjoy reading Women Artists in Boston 1870-1940; Women Artists in Boston 1870-1940 by Erica E. Hirshler

In this article I think we once again see very confident women artists surrounded by support.

1 comment:

  1. "The chief obstacle to a woman's success is that she can never have a wife." I do love that quote! I truly can relate. Thanks for the story