An important member of the Boston School, Lilian Westcott Hale won national recognition for her portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes. Both her paintings and drawings were praised for their elegant beauty, their harmony of form, and their high level of craftsmanship. At the turn of the century, Hale was one of Boston's growing coterie of successful women artists, a group that included such distinguished painters as Lila Cabot Perry and Lilian's sister-in-law, Ellen Day Hale.
Lilian Westcott Hale was born in Hartford, Connecticut, where her father, Edward Gardner Westcott, was an executive with the Lee Arms Company. Intent on becoming a portraitist, she entered the Hartford Art School in 1897, working under Elizabeth Stevens. Hale's talent and dedication soon caught the attention of the Impressionist painter, William Merritt Chase, who lectured at Hartford in 1897 and taught there during 1899-1900. Westcott subsequently spent the summer of 1899 attending Chase's outdoor painting classes at Shinnecock, Long Island. In 1900, after winning the Hartford Paige Scholarship, she began a five year period of study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In recognition of her talent, Hale was permitted to enter Edmund C. Tarbell's painting class without having to take the usual preliminary courses.
During the summer of 1899, Lilian Westcott had been introduced to Philip Leslie Hale, an Impressionist painter, art critic, teacher, and an important member of Boston's art establishment. The couple were married by Hale's famous father, the Reverend Edward Everett Hale, in June of 1901. The couple lived in Boston for a few years before finally settling in Dedham, a nearby suburb.
With the support and encouragement of her husband, who also provided her with a valuable introduction into Brahmin society, Hale quickly established a reputation as a portraitist, painting many prominent Bostonians in the studio in her Dedham home. She also produced paintings and drawings depicting her home and garden, often shown under a fresh blanket of snow. Inspired by the example of Philip Hale, whose writings on the seventeenth century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer inspired the turn-of-the-century Vermeer revival in America, Hale also specialized in interior genre scenes, rendering her figures in an aura of softly diffused light. A gifted draftsman, she was widely admired for her charcoal style, characterized by the use of fine, vertical strokes. Many of Hale's works feature her daughter, Nancy (1909-1988), who went on to become a noted writer and editor.
Hale had her first solo exhibition at the Rowlands Gallery in Boston in 1908. She also participated in the annual exhibitions of the Guild of Boston Artists, the Boston Art Club, the Saint Botolph Club, and the Copley Society. Hale's work was also regularly exhibited in New York, at the Arlington Galleries, Grand Central Art Galleries, and the National Academy of Design, and also at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She was the recipient of numerous awards and prized including a gold medal at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. Hale also received the National Academy's Julia A. Shaw Memorial Prize (1915) and the Benjamin Altman Prize (1927). She was elected a National Academician in 1931.
Although Philip Hale died in 1931, Lilian Westcott Hale continued to live in Dedham until 1955, when she moved to her daughter's home in Charlottesville, Virginia. She continued to paint portraits up until her death in 1963.
Examples of Hale's paintings and drawings can be found in major public collections throughout the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Academy of Design, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., and the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, N.C. In recent years, Hale's work has been featured in many exhibitions devoted to the accomplishments of America's women artists and to art in Boston at the turn of the century.
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