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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.

Details

  • Title: June
  • Creator: Ellen Day Hale
  • Date: ca. 1893
  • artist profile: Ellen Day Hale was among the wave of American artists, both men and women, who traveled to Europe for training in the last quarter of the 19th century. She is best known for her Impressionist figure studies. Hale, the only daughter of the noted orator and author Edward Everett Hale and Emily Baldwin Perkins, came from a family filled with illustrious 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 Lillian Wescott 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.
  • Style: Impressionism
  • Physical Dimensions: w18.125 x h24 in (Without frame)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; Photography by Lee Stalsworth
  • External Link: National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • National Museum of Women in the Arts’ Exhibitions: “Wanderer: Travel Prints by Ellen Day Hale,” 2013; “The Etching Revival and the Professional Woman Artist,” 2005; “Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997,” 1997–98; “Four Centuries of Women’s Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts,” 1990–91; “Ellen Day Hale,” 1989–1990

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