Lilian Westcott Hale was one of America’s most successful impressionist painters. She was born in 1881 in Hartford, Connecticut, and began her art education in 1900 at the School of Fine Arts in Boston. She studied under American impressionist painters Edmund Tarbell, William Merritt Chase, and Philip Leslie Hale, whom she later married. Impressionism first emerged in the 1860s in France in the work of artists such as Edward Manet, Camille Pissaro, and Claude Monet, who broke away from academic traditions to instead capture “impressions” of their subjects, achieving a sense of immediacy and spontaneity through loosely brushed vibrant colors that also convey a sense of sparkling light. At the turn of the 20th century, Impressionism had made its way to America and influenced a new era of artists. Hale is most closely associated with the ‘Boston School’ of American Impressionism and is best known for her sensitive portrayals of Boston society through subjects such as portraiture, genre scenes of interiors, and outdoor leisure activities. After the birth of her daughter in 1908, Hale began sketching domestic scenes that reflected her enjoyment of motherhood. Her paintings are appealing: she often depicts charming figures highlighted by soft lights playing over their forms and rendered in rich colors. Able to capture a delicate animation in her subjects, Hale was a master of refined impressionist technique.
Starting in 1904, she exhibited annually in Boston, and throughout her career Hale won awards for her artistic achievement, including the Gold Medal of Honor from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and the Gold Medal from the Philadelphia Art Club in 1919. In 1927, Hale was the first woman to win the esteemed Altman Prize from the National Academy of Design for her painting, Portrait of Taylor Hardin, which was one of the few male subjects she ever painted. In 1931, Hale’s husband, Philip Leslie Hale died. Hale did not paint for several years after her husband’s death, but she finally resumed painting in the mid-1950s and continued to work until her own death in 1963.