Monday, November 19, 2007

Artists of Lanesville - ELLEN DAY HALE

This excerpt is from A Village at Lane's Cove by Barbara H Erkkila recently reprinted and available through Ten Pound Island Book Company. Barbara was the best chronicler of Lanesville and also authored the book Hammers on Stone-The History of Cape Ann Granite available in bookshops around Rockport and Gloucester, and The Cape Ann Museum giftshop.

Ellen Day Hale, Folly Cove artist, who painted from her summer home, The Thickets, beginning in 1883, was an exception to most women of the nineteenth century. Miss Hale was a leader in Folly Cove’s art colony, composed mostly of women like herself who had stuck “to their own guns” and studied art despite family traditions of becoming decorative hostesses while men achieved their own goals.

Miss Hale was born on February 11, 1855 in Worcester of a socially prominent family. Her great-great-uncle was Nathan Hale, the patriot; her grandfather was Lyman Beecher, the noted Calvinist; and her father was the great orator and clergyman, Edward Everett Hale. Her nephew, Philip Leslie Hale, shared her love for art and painted in Boston. His wife, Lilian Westcott Hale, also an artist, became known nationally for her portraits.

There was surprise in art circles when, in 1868, William Morris Hunt, innovative teacher and well-known artist, invited women to join his classes. He believed in women’s artistic sensibilities. Ellen Day Hale had studied in Dr. William Rimmer’s classes in Boston to determine whether or not she really had artistic ability. When she decided she certainly did, she went to Hunt’s classes in 1874, and also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at Hunt’s recommendation. She was also instructed by Miss Helen Knowlton in Boston, and in 1881 she traveled to Europe with her. While there she studied under Emmanuel Fremiet at Jardin Des Plantes.

Artist friends of Miss Hale have pointed out that the influence of her teacher, William Morris Hunt, shows, for instance, in her “Landscape In Normandy,” an oil on canvas done in broad brush strokes, strong highlights and absence of line. (Hunt had studied with Thomas Couture of Paris and Jean-Francois Millet in Barbizon.)

Miss Hale had hardly touched base again in the United States when, in 1882, she began a tour of Spain with her father and her aunt, Susan Hale, also an artist. She decided to find more instruction and attended classes in Paris by Carolus-Duran for four months, then studied at the Academia Julian with Tony Robert-Fleury, Rodolphe Julian, William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Jean-Jacques Henner.

The year 1883 was an important one for Miss Hale. She had met a Philadelphia artist and etcher, Gabrielle deVeaux Clements, and the two became lifelong friends and traveling companions. They lived side-by-side in Folly Cove in almost identical fishermen’s cottages until they became elderly and Miss Clements moved in with Miss Hale.

One winter the two artists traveled in the Southwest, another season they took the train to Missouri, Colorado and Santa Barbara, California. They had already toured Europe a few times. Languages were never a problem since Miss Hale spoke seven of them She was already seventy when she decided to tackle Finnish, but she was frustrated with the difficult grammar and gave it up.

In 1885 Miss Hale exhibited “Lady with a Fan,” a self portrait, in the Paris Salon, a painting that made her an artist in her own right. She also began her first etchings being taught by Miss Clements, and later exhibited her work. One is of a barefooted boy high up in a willow tree, leaning against its broad trunk, enjoying his hand-whittled whistle. In 1888, after writing to the Boston Traveler about her experiences as an art student in Europe, she finished a book, History of Art, on the great Renaissance men. In 1902 Miss Hale was living in Washington, D.C. for a while to help her father entertain. He was then a chaplain in the United States Senate. She exhibited at The Corcoran Gallery and later won first prize at the Society of Washington Artists. In 1905 Miss Hale painted her large canvas, “Morning News,” a most sensitive portrait of a woman quickly scanning the newspaper as though she had just picked it up at the sunlit door. The light in the portrait is beautifully done, much more highly emphasized than the usual portrait painter would have done in those times. That was the era of the new Boston School.

With her artist friends at Folly Cove, Margaret Yeaton Hoyt and Gabrielle Clements, Ellen Day Hale painted murals for churches, dividing up the work so all three could paint together. At that time, Miss Hoyt was becoming recognized as well, although much younger than the other two.

In 1930 and in 1935 Ellen Day Hale exhibited in the North Shore Arts Association in Gloucester. She suffered from arthritis, and in her last years was not able to continue her work. She died in 1940, but left a legacy of many paintings and etchings representing the days during the close of the last century when a middle-of-the-road Boston was beginning to absorb the Impressionists, painters of light.


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