Ellen Day Hale

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Ellen Day Hale
Self-Portrait, by Ellen Day Hale.jpg
Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, 1885, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Born (1855-02-11)February 11, 1855
Worcester, Massachusetts
Died February 11, 1940(1940-02-11) (aged 85)
Brookline, Massachusetts
Nationality American
Education Académie Julian
Known for Painting, printmaking
Notable work Un Hiver Americain, An Old Retainer, A New England Girl, June
Ellen Day Hale, Lilies
Ellen Day Hale, Morning News
Ellen Day Hale, Summer Place

Ellen Day Hale (February 11, 1855  – February 11, 1940) was an American Impressionist painter and printmaker from Boston. She studied art in Paris and during her adult life lived in Paris, London and Boston. She exhibited at the Paris Salon and the Royal Academy of Arts. Hale wrote the book History of Art: A Study of the Lives of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and Albrecht Dürer.

Personal life[edit]

Hale was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her father was author and orator Edward Everett Hale and her mother was Emily Baldwin Perkins. Ellen's brother was Philip Leslie Hale. Her father was a Unitarian chaplin in the U.S. Senate from 1904 until his death in 1909. Philip Leslie Hale, her brother, and his wife, Lilian Wescott Hale, were painters.[1][2] She was one of eight children, and she helped raise her siblings.[3] Her mother became disabled, after which point she was a hostess for her father during his time as a Senate chaplain.[1]

Her great-aunt was Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.[1] Educator Catherine Beecher was also a great-aunt.[4] Revolutionary War soldier was her great-great uncle.[1] She was also related to writer and social reformer Charlotte Perkins Gilman.[2]

She was a "New Woman": a successful, highly trained woman artist from the 19th century who never married. Other New Women include Elizabeth Coffin, Mary Cassatt, Elizabeth Nourse and Cecilia Beaux.[5] She lived in Europe and the United States before settling down in her 50s.[1]


Her aunt, Susan Hale, gave Ellen her first lessons in art. She then studied under Bostonian William Rimmer, Helen M. Knowlton, and Boston painter William Morris Hunt. She was taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1878 and 1879.[1] Her subsequent studies at the Académie Julian[nb 1] and Académie Colarossi in Paris between 1882 and 1885 were highly influential to her, as she was one of several American women and men to study art in Europe in the last quarter of the 19th century.[1][2][3][6]


Hale was an Impressionist painter, best known for her figure paintings,[1] including many portraits and self-portraits. She made sophisticated, aesthetic paintings with good command of light, shadow and technical skill.[7] She exhibited at the Boston Art Club in 1876.[1] In Europe, she lived in both London and Paris, where she exhibited at Paris Salon[3] in 1885[7] her paintings An Old Retainer and Un Hiver Americain. In London's Royal Academy of Arts, she exhibited A New England Girl. Hale traveled to Italy and Spain. In the United States she lived in Boston, and her work associated is with the Boston School.[8] She was also a teacher.[3]

In 1883, she met Gabrielle de Veaux Clements, who became a lifelong companion and taught her etching. Together they pioneered color etching in the United States in the late 1880s. Hale was very active in exhibiting her work, but only achieved marginal recognition of her art.[9]

She made a self-portrait in 1885, which was described by an art critic, meaning to compliment her work, as displaying "a man’s strength." The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: "Hale's forthright presentation, her strong dark colors, and the direct manner in which she engages the viewer recall the work of one of the French painters she most admired, Edouard Manet. Manet had been known for his confrontational images, strongly painted without subtle nuances of light and shadow."[2] Hale, Elizabeth Nourse, and Elizabeth Coffin "created compelling self-portraits in which they fearlessly presented themselves as individuals willing to flout social codes and challenge accepted ideas regarding women's place in society. Indeed, the New Women portraits of the 1880s and 1890s are unforgettable interpretations of energetic, self-confident and accomplished women."[10]

Hale returned to the United States from Paris in 1885 and exhibited paintings at the North, Central and South America Exposition in late 1885. She also participated in other world's fairs and traveling exhibitions.[7]

Her 1893 portrait, June, which depicts a young woman sewing, wearing a bun and a checked dress, is in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.[1]

She made increasingly Impressionistic paintings, but like "many of her Boston colleagues, she did not compromise her dedication to painting the human form," into her 80s.[1][2]


Hale died in Brookline, Massachusetts, aged 85. Her works were shown in the latter part of the 20th century and early 21st century, in group exhibitions and in solo exhibitions of her work in 1989 to 1990 and in 2013's "Wanderer: Travel Prints by Ellen Day Hale".[1]




  • Early Vegetables, Charleston, S.C., Soft ground color etching, ca. 1918[11]
  • Lady with a Fan[7]


  1. ^ She attended Académie Julian because it accepted women art students. The Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the most renowned art school in Paris, did not accept women students until 1897.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ellen Day Hale. National Museum of Women in the Arts. February 17, 2014. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NMWA" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ a b c d e f Self-Portrait - Ellen Day Hale. Museum of Fine Arts. Retrieved February 17, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1892). "Hale, John". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  4. ^ American Women Artists 1830-1930. Washington, D.C.: The National Museum of Women in the Arts. 1987. ISBN 0-940979-02-0
  5. ^ Holly Pyne Connor; Newark Museum; Frick Art & Historical Center. Off the Pedestal: New Women in the Art of Homer, Chase, and Sargent. Rutgers University Press; 2006. ISBN 978-0-8135-3697-2. p. 25.
  6. ^ Works of Art in the United States Capitol Building, Charles Edward Fairman, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1913
  7. ^ a b c d Kirsten Swinth. Painting Professionals: Women Artists & the Development of Modern American Art, 1870-1930. UNC Press Books; 2001. ISBN 978-0-8078-4971-2. p. 63.
  8. ^ "Ellen Day Hale (1855-1940)". Vose Galleries. 
  9. ^ Phyllis Peet (1999). "Hale, Ellen Day". American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  10. ^ Holly Pyne Connor; Newark Museum; Frick Art & Historical Center. Off the Pedestal: New Women in the Art of Homer, Chase, and Sargent. Rutgers University Press; 2006. ISBN 978-0-8135-3697-2. p. 27, 39.
  11. ^ Early Vegetables, Charleston, S.C.. The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina. Retrieved February 17, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Darcy J. Dapra. Ellen Day Hale: Homosociality and the Nineteenth-century Woman Artist. University of California, Davis; 2003.

External links[edit]