Ellen Day Hale (1855-1940)

Ellen Day Hale (1855-1940)

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1855, Ellen Day Hale was the only daughter of minister and author Edward Everett Hale, and as a member of a prominent New England family she was encouraged in her pursuit of the fine arts from an early age. Her first teacher was likely her aunt, the watercolorist Susan Hale, and by the 1870s she was working with the sculptor William Rimmer and with Helen Knowlton and William Morris Hunt in Boston; the latter persuaded his students to travel abroad to further develop their education, and in the early 1880s, Hale journeyed to Paris. There she enrolled at the Académie Julian and worked in the atelier of Carolus Duran, and also began showing at the Paris Salon.

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Hale’s early paintings were marked by their bold color and strong compositional elements, but she gradually developed a brighter palette in line with the Impressionist movement occurring in Europe and later imported to Boston in the last decades of the 19th century. Her brother, the artist Philip Leslie Hale, embraced the Impressionists’ techniques after spending time in Giverny and while she didn’t journey to the French countryside herself, soon after her return to Massachusetts in 1883, Ellen Day Hale adapted the lighter tones and softly modeled forms to her portraits and paintings of beautiful young women in well-appointed interiors, a frequent theme of the Boston School tradition.

Hale exhibited with the Boston Art Club, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Corcoran Gallery and the Art Institute of Chicago, among other notable venues, and received numerous awards during her career. She was also an inveterate traveler, exploring Europe and the Middle East, and recorded her experiences in an impressive number of etchings, a medium she first took up in France and perfected through lessons with Gabrielle DeVeaux Clements, her lifelong companion. Hale spent a year in Santa Barbara, California in the early 1890s, and around 1893 began wintering in Charleston, South Carolina, and summering in Rockport, Massachusetts. Between 1904 and 1909, Hale resided in Washington, DC, serving as hostess in her father’s home while he was chaplain to the U. S. Senate. Today her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and in Washington, DC at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

References: Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, 1999.

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