Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Artists of Lanesville - LILIAN WESTCOTT 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.

One of the first women artists to win the Altman Prize of the National Academy was Lilian Westcott Hale, thus nationally recognized for her portraits of children. Sharing her life as an artist was her husband, Philip L. Hale, also a distinguished painter and art critic for the Boston Herald. They had been married twenty nine years when he died unexpectedly, shattering her world for a while.

Theirs was the granite studio home planned by Ellen Day Hale, Philip’s aunt. Once a relative was showing the home to a visitor, explaining that Miss Hale had built the studio. “Well, she must have had a boy to help her,” the newcomer said. Actually, Alex Jungquist was the mason who built the studio, as well as others for Nicola D’Ascenzo and Walker Hancock.

Lilian Westcott Hale was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1881, and studied art there for several years. She then came to Boston, at the insistence of Edmund Tarbell, on a scholarship to work under Tarbell at the Museum of Fine Arts school. She had always been surrounded by people working with art, for her grandmother taught watercolor painting in Miss Pearson’s School for Girls in Litchfield. Her father was a draftsman who put her on his knee and drew figures and heads for her entertainment.

Philip Hale was teaching at a school in Boston where he eventually met Lilian Westcott. They were married when she was nineteen. He was the son of Edward Everett Hale, and Ellen Day Hale’s nephew. Their daughter was the late Nancy Hale, author, wife of Professor Fredson Bowers of Charlottesville, Virginia, who used to come to stay and write at the studio in the summer.

When asked about her work, Lilian Hale would turn the conversation to her husband’s endless patience, and how he always encouraged her. When he arrived home after a day’s teaching, he was interested to see what she had painted. She said, “He had humor and kindliness.”

At one time Lilian Hale studied for a while with William Merritt Chase at Hills Summer School, Shinnicock, Long Island. She found this teacher instilled in her an enormous amount of confidence and inspiration. She greatly admired the famous artist Cecelia Beaux, who also lived on Cape Ann. Lilian characterized her as “a very handsome and vital woman.”

Lilian Hale’s first exhibit was at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, followed by an exhibit with her husband at the Copley Society in Boston. Her first important award was a bronze medal for her painting, “The Fortune Teller” in 1910 shown at the exposition in Buenos Aires. Her canvas “Lavender and Old Ivory” won an award in 1915, &id a work entitled “When She Was a Little Girl” won the Potter Palmer Gold Medal and a money prize from the Art Institute of Chicago.

The portrait she particularly enjoyed doing was of Taylor Scott Hardin, a Folly Cove summer resident, for “he had a very bony structure, was very picturesque in his riding outfit, and he loved to pose.” In 1927 Lilian Hale won the much coveted National Academy’s First Altman Prize, including $1,000, with the Hardin portrait. In 1931 she became an Academician of the National Academy of Design.

Lilian Westcott Hale was noted for her paintings of children, and among them were many of her daughter. The artist was praised for “excellent draftsmanship” with a “carefully thought-out design.” She did portraits of many women as they posed close to a window, or in winter, worked on snow scenes observed from her upstairs room. During her last years, after Philip Hale died, she lived in Virginia with her daughter, Nancy Hale, and her son-in-law. Lilian died in St. Paul, Minnesota on November 7,1963.

When the women of the Folly Cove art colony would meet over a cup of tea, one of the little stories they never tired of relating was how all had submitted paintings to an upcoming show in Rockport. They were later speechless to hear that Lilian Westcott Hale’s painting had been rejected by a jury. She was one of the few women national academicians exhibiting. So they all withdrew memberships, paintings, support and looked to Gloucester for their future activities. At that time, emphasis was being put on the new art, that “blobby garish type that hit the art world in the early thirties.” But even at East Gloucester artists became divided over traditional versus modern art, resulting in two separate groups there. But the support of North Shore Arts Association by the Folly Cove artists has helped keep it in existence today.


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