Harriet Hallowell

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Harriet Hallowell
Born (1873-06-15)June 15, 1873
Boston, Massachusetts
Education Studied in Paris
Known for Landscape painting, portrait painting, still life,
Movement Miniature painting

Harriet Hallowell (1873–1943) was an expatriate American artist who lived in France for almost fifty years. She was born in Boston to a distinguished and artistic Quaker family. During World War I she remained in France and was an industrious worker at a small volunteer hospital. The hospital was near the home she shared with her aunt Sarah Tyson Hallowell, located in the village of Moret-sur-Loing, which borders the Forest of Fontainebleau.[1] Because of her war relief efforts on behalf of the French and Allied soldiers, the French government awarded her the Légion d'honneur in 1930.[2]

Early life[edit]

Harriett Hallowell was born in Boston on June 15, 1873. Her father was the Civil War veteran and architect Lewis Morris Hallowell (1844–1909) and her mother was Harriet Hawley Hallowell. Her father's family were distinguished Quakers from Philadelphia and Baltimore, with deep roots in Pennsylvania. Her mother's family was Swedenborgian, Boston Society of New Jerusulem. Harriet had one brother, the artist George Hawley Hallowell, who was a year older. The children lost their mother in 1879. Harriet was raised by her paternal grandmother, Mary Morris Tyson Hallowell, while George was raised by his maternal grandparents George and Harriet Hawley.[citation needed]

Artistic career[edit]

There was an artistic tradition among the Hallowells and Harriet's aunt Sara had began her career as a painter.[according to whom?] Harriett and her older brother George both drew and painted as children.[citation needed]

Harriet's work may have been exhibited in Boston in 1893,[3] before her departure for France. She was a member of the Paris branch of the American Artists Professional League.[4] Hallowell was usually described as a miniature painter. Her work was also included in the annual Paris Salon.[citation needed] Few works seem to have surfaced thus far. She is known to have painted landscapes near her French home.[5]


Harriet's aunt Sara Tyson Hallowell was an important curator in Chicago, widely credited with bringing French Impressionism to America. She had assembled the loan exhibit of French paintings from American collections for the World's Columbian Exposition, the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.[6] She was also instrumental in the Women's Pavilion for the fair,[7] recommending Mary Cassatt and Mary Fairchild MacMonnies for the large murals. After the fair was over, Sara Hallowell moved to France, where she served as an agent for the Art Institute of Chicago, curating their annual exhibition of American paintings from the expatriate American artists who lived in France. She also served as an advisor to American millionaires, introducing them to the leading French artists of the day. Their circle included Mary Cassatt, Auguste Rodin and Anders Zorn.[5] In 1894, Harriet Hallowell, then twenty-one and her grandmother joined her aunt Sara in Paris. Through her aunt, she was able to meet the leading French and American painters and experience the salon lifestyle of the Parisian elite.[8] As her grandmother grew infirm, she took care of her, first in their apartment in Paris and then in the small house in Moret-sur-Loing, a small, picturesque village that had been a favorite of the French Impressionists. The Hallowells probably took the Moret-sur-Loing house about 1900, because the painting she sent to the Art Institute in 1901 bears that address.[9]

War Relief Work[edit]

Because the war was so close to their home, a small hospital was set up in Moret-sur-Loing, "Hôpital Aux No. 26" [10] which in English would be Auxiliary Hospital Number 26.[11] The hospital opened in August 1914 and was active throughout the war.[12] Sara Hallowell and Harriett Hallowell helped to treat wounded soldiers and like their grandmother, raised money for refugees. At home they knitted warm clothing for French citizens who had been displaced by the fighting or whose homes had been destroyed. Also in the war, they also were involved in efforts to send care packages to allied soldiers who had been captured by the Germans. In a 1918 letter, Sara Hallowell emphasized that because of rationing in Germany, allied prisoners were in danger of starvation stating that "It is absolutely vital that such relief should be sent." [13]

Later life[edit]

Harriet Hallowell's aunt Sara died in 1924, leaving her alone in their little house in Moret-sur-Loing. She inherited her aunt's estate, which while not rich in cash, was rich in art, with paintings by artists such as Anders Zorn (1860–1920) and two works of sculpture by Auguste Rodin (1840–1917), a gift from the famous sculptor, who was a close friend's of her aunt's. She continued to paint and remained active with the Paris chapter of the American Artists Professional League. She exhibited her work with the American Women's Club of Paris and at the annual Salon.[14]

The French government honored her with the Croix d'Honneur for her war work in 1930.[15] Despite her family's objections she remained in France after the start of World War II, when the Germans overran and then occupied France, even after the Americans entered the war in 1941. She died in 1943. Her heirs could not afford to bring her extensive art collection back to the United States which required matching their value and they became property of the French state.[16]

Memberships and Affiliations[edit]

  • American Artists Professional League, Paris Chapter
  • Daughters of the American Revolution


  1. ^ Most of this information on Harriett Hallowell drawn from "The Indefatigable Miss Hallowell, An American Curator and Heroine in France (essay)" by Jeffrey Morseburg.[full citation needed]
  2. ^ Revue des Études Historiques 97. Société des Études Historiques. 1931. 
  3. ^ Boston Globe, June 11, 1893
  4. ^ Mentioned in its minutes from the 1920s and 1930s
  5. ^ a b See The Indefatigable Miss Hallowell by Jeffrey Morseburg.
  6. ^ Held to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage to North America.
  7. ^ Her friend and client Bertha Palmer (1849–1918) was President of the Board of Lady Managers
  8. ^ Morseburg sites the location as 9 Avenue du Trocadero
  9. ^ Annual exhibition of American Artists, AIC, 1901
  10. ^ The online "Forum Histoire 1914–1918" reference lists the hospital.
  11. ^ Listed in French records as HA n° 26 Moret-sur-Loing - Asile de vieillards - 40 lits - SSBM - Fonctionne du (2 août 1914 au ?)
  12. ^ This is referenced by U.S. Department of State Records, Paris Embassy, 1904–1924.
  13. ^ Letter in the collection of Umited States Department of State, May 3, 1918
  14. ^ Work of 39 American Artists in Paris Salon, Fitchburg Sentinel, June 4, 1925
  15. ^ Informateur de Seine-et-Marne, 26 Aout, 1930[full citation needed]
  16. ^ Perot Collection Letters in the Pennsylvania Historical Society holdings, family notes on Ancestry.com