Urgent Museum Notice

Ellen Day Hale

A painting of a light skinned, older woman who is seated on a black chair. She wears a large, black hat, and a white turtleneck that is barely visible beneath a black coat and black feathered shawl. The background, rendered in visible, thin painstrokes, is grey and brown.

Margaret Bush-Brown, Ellen Day Hale, 1910; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Gift of Arthur Hale

1855–1940

Hale, the only daughter of the noted orator and author Edward Everett Hale and Emily Baldwin Perkins, came from a family filled with notable figures. Her great-great-uncle Nathan Hale was a Revolutionary War patriot; her great-aunt Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin; and her brother Philip and his wife Lilian Westcott Hale were also professional painters.

Hale never married but helped raise her seven younger brothers. After her mother became an invalid, the artist acted as hostess for her father when he served as chaplain to the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C., between 1904 and his death in 1909.

She took classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts but was more influenced by her experiences in France at the Académie Colarossi and the Académie Julian, where she was a student in 1882 and again in 1885. She also learned etching from Gabrielle de Veaux Clements—also in NMWA’s collection—who became a lifelong friend.

Hale began exhibiting her work in 1876 at the Boston Art Club; her pictures were also displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Paris Salon, and at important venues in Philadelphia and Chicago.

Hale supplemented her income by teaching but did not settle down in one place until she was nearly 50. She continued painting well into her 80s.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Ellen Day Hale
  • Birth

    Worcester, Massachusetts, 1855
  • Death

    Brookline, Massachusetts, 1940
  • Phonetic Spelling

    EHL-ehn day HAY-ehl

Works by Ellen Day Hale

June

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...

Impressionistic half-portrait of a light-skinned young woman wearing a checkered dress in neutral tones, her brown hair in a high, loose bun. She is seated in a wooden chair, backlit from a sun-filled window, with her head bowed and focusing on the sewing project in her lap.