June ca. 1893

Ellen Day Hale, June, ca. 1893; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Ellen Day Hale produced landscapes and large religious murals, but she specialized in figure studies, such as June, painted in an Impressionist manner. Like the 17th-century Dutch masters whose work she admired, Hale excelled at depicting solitary women in light-filled interiors, absorbed in domestic pursuits.

Here the sitter concentrates on her sewing, completely ignoring the dazzling landscape beyond the window. Hale’s extremely loose brushwork is visible in the thickly impastoed areas behind the sitter’s head. Yet we can clearly perceive the woman’s thimble and the quick movements of her needle glinting in the sunlight.

The dark chair contrasts with the bright light that floods in and picks out a few strands of the woman’s upswept hair. Hale communicates the atmosphere through her rendering of the woman’s dress. She flattens the check pattern in certain sections, allows the right shoulder to dissolve into the light, and adds the unexpected, humanizing touch of a missing button, of which the seamstress seems ironically unaware.

This canvas was presumably painted in Santa Barbara, California, where Hale lived from 1892 to 1893.