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Adelson Galleries, Inc.

Lilian Westcott Hale

Book of Verses

Book of Verses, 1924
29 x 23 inches
Signed at upper right: Lilian Westcott Hale

29 x 23 inches



(possibly) 23rd Annual Watercolor Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, November 8 – December 13, 1925

(possibly) 9th Annual Exhibition, Concord Art Association, Massachusetts, May 3 – July 1, 1925

The Sixth International Watercolor Exhibition, The Art Institute of Chicago, May 3 – 30th, 1926, No. 87 as Book of Verses


Lilian Westcott came to Boston after William Merritt Chase encouraged her to further pursue her studies in fine art. She had attended Chase’s Summer School in Shinnecock, Long Island, while a student of the Hartford Art School in 1899, and then followed his suggestion to enter the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She enrolled in an advanced painting class with Edmund Tarbell and in 1901 was first introduced to faculty member Philip Hale, whom she married just a year later. Philip was fifteen years her senior and already a well-established professional artist and teacher in the Boston area. Acting as her mentor, Philip encouraged and supported Lilian’s considerable talent, and in 1905 they moved into two adjacent studios at the Fenway Studios on Ipswich Street, numbers 210 and 211.

Hale’s work flourished after completing her studies at the Museum School. In 1908, she held her first solo exhibition comprised entirely of drawings at Rowlands Gallery in Boston, and was applauded by collectors and artists alike for her carefully drafted charcoal and pastel compositions. Hale sold a number of the drawings to fellow artists, including William Paxton, Gretchen Rogers, the sculptor Bela Pratt, and her own teacher Edmund Tarbell, who remarked: “Your drawings are perfectly beautiful – as fine as anything could be. They belong with our old friends Leonardo, Holbein and Ingres, and are to me the finest modern drawings I have ever seen.” Just a few months later, Hale would give birth to the couple’s only child, Nancy, who naturally became one of her parents’ favorite muses and posed for a number of drawings and paintings throughout her childhood.

In 1912, the Hale family moved into a Colonial Revival farmhouse in Dedham, Massachusetts, where they converted a large parlor into a multi-windowed studio for Lilian. The home, which they called “Sandy Down,” served as a setting for many of Hale’s interior scenes, and even her neighborhood landscape and its occupants became her subjects. In addition to her charcoal drawings, she produced a number of figural paintings and was particularly praised for her expressive portraits of children, executed in a manner characteristic of the Boston School tradition, often with a granulated surface reminiscent of pastel work. By her teens, Nancy continued to serve as a model but asked to be shown reading, allowing her to pursue a favorite pastime over the long hours these sessions required. While the young lady in A Book of Verses is not clearly identified, it could show a sixteen-year-old Nancy seated in a wicker chair in front of the hearth of their Dedham residence. The carefully-arranged composition offers a pleasing balance of curved and straight lines while the spare use of knickknacks reflects the simplicity of the Hales’ décor and the artist’s own New England roots. These elements, along with the figure’s dress and faraway gaze, instill the scene with a sense of nostalgia for the past. According to a letter from the artist to Robert C. Vose, the painting was sent to Vose Galleries for sale in 1924, and two years later it was included in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Sixth International Exhibition of Watercolor Paintings.

A devoted mother, Lilian still managed to show her work extensively at a number of local and national venues, including the Guild of Boston Artists, the St. Botolph Club, the Copley Society and the Boston Art Club, as well as the Arlington and Grand Central Art Galleries in New York. Among her many awards was a bronze medal in the Buenos Aires International Exhibition in 1910, a gold medal and medal of honor for drawing in the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts’ Beck prize in 1923, and prizes from the National Academy of Design in 1924 and 1927. She was granted full membership to the National Academy in 1931, however, sadly, her husband died that same year and this event greatly depleted her ambition. As she grew older, Lilian contentedly worked on portraits of her family, often summering in Rockport, Massachusetts, with her sister-in-law Ellen Day Hale and finally settling in Virginia in 1955 to be closer to her daughter during the last years of her life.