Philip Hale was an important member of the Boston School of figure painters and one of the most
innovative of the American Impressionists. He was also an influential and prolific art critic, recognized
for his insightful writings on Impressionism and other aspects of modern art, as well as for his
monographs on the seventeenth-century Dutch painter, Jan Vermeer. Hales talents also extended
the realm of teaching: for over thirty years, he was one of the most popular instructors at the school
the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, his pupils including such noted painters as John Lavalle and Will
A member of one of Bostons most distinguished families, Hale was the son of the Reverend Edward
Everett Hale (1822-1909), the acclaimed author, orator and preacher, and Emily Baldwin (Perkins)
Hale (1830-1914), a descendent of Governor William Bradford, one of the original Mayflower pilgrims.
His impressive Brahmin lineage also included the eminent journalist and patriot, Nathan Hale (1784-
1863), Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), the acclaimed preacher, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-96), the
abolitionist and novelist. Of Hales nine siblings, his sister Ellen (1855-1940) became a well
painter and printmaker, while his brother Herbert (1866-1908) was a successful architect.
Hale began painting and drawing as a child, encouraged by his mother and by his aunt, Susan Hale
(1833-1910), a respected painter, author, and editor. His earliest artistic success came in 1883, when
he designed the cover illustration for the March 9th issue of the Harvard Lampoon.
Upon graduating from Roxbury Latin School in 1883, Hale decided to pursue a career as a painter.
However, he was not permitted to undertake formal study until, in compliance with his fathers
and family tradition, he had first passed the entrance examination to Harvard University. Upon doing
Hale spent a year at the Museum School (1883-84), after which time he went to New York, studying at
the Art Students League under J. Alden Weir and Kenyon Cox.
Like other American artists of his generation, Hale continued his training in the art schools of Paris.
traveled to the French capital in January of 1887, accompanied by his aunt Susan and a fellow student,
Theodore Earl Butler. Hale went on to study at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts and at the
Académie Julian, working under Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, Gustave Boulanger and Henri Doucet. In
1889, he made his debut at the Salon de la Champs de Mars, his Old Bird Fancier (1888; Private
collection) capturing the attention of Parisian critics. During this period, Hale worked in a traditional
manner, employing a dark palette and academic principles of form and structure.
A turning point in Hales development occurred in 1888, when, accompanied by Butler, he made his
first visit to Giverny, the recently-established Impressionist art colony on the Seine about forty miles
northwest of Paris. Hale went on to make regular summer visits there, joining a coterie of American
Impressionist painters that included Theodore Robinson, Theodore Wendel and Lilla Cabot Perry.
Inspired by the plein air investigations of his American colleagues, as well as by the proximity of
Monet, Givernys most famous resident artist, Hale gradually lightened his palette and adopted
technique, painting intimate views of the Epte River such as River Bank, Giverny (1888; Private
collection). While abroad, Hale also painted in Rijsoord, Holland (late 1880s). In 1890, he made a trip
to Spain, where he studied the work of Old Masters such as Diego Velasquez.
From 1890 to 1893, Hale made a series of extended trips to France where he continued to experiment
with Impressionism and absorbed the latest trends in contemporary French art. During 1891-92, he
served as the Paris correspondent for the Montreal-based art journal, Arcadia, where his perceptive
commentaries represented some of the earliest critical writing on Impressionism by a North American.
In the fall of 1893, Hale began his long and influential teaching career at the Museum School, where
taught antique drawing and artistic anatomy. He also continued his activity as a writer, publishing
and reviews in periodicals such as Modern Art and Collector and Art Critic. After the turn of the
century, Hale wrote critical commentaries for the Boston Herald, becoming a major spokesman for his
Boston colleagues such as Tarbell, Frank Benson and William MacGregor Paxton. His study on the
Dutch painter Jan Vermeer, published in 1904 (expanded and revised in 1913) helped instigate the
Vermeer revival in America and served as vital source of inspiration for his later work
and that of the
Boston School in general. Hale was also the author of several books, among them Great Portraits:
Women (1909) and Great Portraits: Children (1909).
During the 1890s, Hale evolved his own distinctive brand of Impressionism--one that set him well apart
from the mainstream approach of his contemporaries. He subsequently emerged as one of the most
advanced of the American Impressionists, developing an approach that combined a concern with light,
color and atmosphere with a Neo-Impressionist technique revolving around the use of fine, Divisionist
brushwork and a palette dominated by a dazzling shade of chrome yellow. Although a few of these
works, such as Poppies (circa 1890s; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine) were painted
in Giverny, the majority were done in Matunuck, Rhode Island, where Hale posed his female models
outdoors in diaphanous dresses in order to capture the intensity of shimmering sunlight. His efforts
resulted in such original canvases as Girls in Sunlight (mid-1890s; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston),
wherein forms are dissolved in aura of golden sunlight. When Hale debuted these works at his solo
exhibition at the Durand-Ruel Galleries in New York in 1899, his work confounded and startled the art
world. While a perceptive writer for Art Amateur described him as the boldest of the American
Impressionists and a courageous modern, the majority of critics deemed Hales
paintings to be too
experimental and extreme.
In 1902, Hale married the painter Lilian Westcott. During their honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls, he
applied his advanced style to a number of striking renditions of the Canadian and American falls and
Niagara River. However, after around 1905, Hale adopted a more conservative Impressionism, putting
a greater emphasis on drawing and composition. This change was prompted by a number of factors
ranging from the artists 1904 study on Vermeer to the impact of his teaching at the Museum School
and the mixed reception to his 1899 exhibition at Durand-Ruel. Hale went on to concentrate on views
of attractive female models in both indoor and outdoor settings, achieving international recognition
the basis of works such as The Crimson Rambler (circa 1908; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts,
Philadelphia) which won the Temple Prize at the Pennsylvania Academys annual exhibition in 1908.
Although he painted the occasional landscape, images of women remained his primary thematic
concern. His later oeuvre also includes a number of allegorical paintings and many portraits.
A gifted draftsman, Hale produced drawings in silver-point, sanguine, and pastel, all of which
contributed to his reputation as the Boston Ingres. After the turn of the century, he received
invitations to teach at other institutions, going on to conduct studio classes at the Hartford Art School
(1911-18) and the Pennsylvania Academy (1913-28) in addition to his classes at the Museum School.
He was also a guest lecturer at Boston University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and elsewhere. In
the words of one former pupil, Hale was a patient and understanding teacher . . . he possessed
unsurpassed wit, which he delivered with quiet subtlety and spontaneity.
Hale was a regular contributor to the national annuals, including those at the National Academy of
Design in New York, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Art Institute
Chicago. He also participated in the groundbreaking International Exhibition of Modern Art (also
known as the Armory Show) in 1913. Hales professional affiliations included the Boston Art Club;
Guild of Boston Artists; the St. Botolph Club in Boston; the Copley Society, Boston; the National Arts
Club, New York (artist life member); the National Association of Portrait Painters, New York; and
other such organizations. He also served on many juries including that of the Panama-Pacific
International Exposition in San Francisco (1915). His numerous awards and prizes included a gold
medal at the International Exposition in Buenos Aires in 1910 and the Harris medal at the Art Institute
Chicago in 1914.
Hale resided in Boston until 1908, when he moved his family to Dedham, a nearby suburb. He died in
Boston in February of 1931 following an emergency appendectomy. During that same year, a memorial
exhibition of his work was held at Bostons Museum of Fine Arts. Since that time, Hales paintings
been included in recent studies dealing with American Impressionism, American painters working in
France and the Boston School of figure painting. His daughter Nancy Hale (Bowers), a novelist and
writer, has explored the personal side of Hales life in her 1969 memoir, Life in the Studio.
Examples of Philip Hales work can be found in major public collections throughout the United States,
including the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the American
Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the
National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the National Arts
Club, New York; the National Academy of Design, New York; the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk,
Virginia; the Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago; and the Butler Institute of American Art,