L'Edition de Luxe
Lilian Westcott Hale (American, 1880–1963)
58.42 x 38.42 cm (23 x 15 1/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Joseph P. and Anne B. Pellegrino Gallery (Gallery 223)
Women artists found Boston to be a particularly supportive environment for their professional activities. Lilian Westcott came to the city from Hartford, Connecticut, with a scholarship to study painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She worked with Edmund Tarbell [09.209] for two years, but left the program when she married Philip Hale [1996.332], a professor of drawing there. He supported her career even after their daughter Nancy was born in 1908, and Lilian Westcott Hale became an integral part of Boston’s closely knit community of like-minded artists. Many of them were women; one of Lilian Hale’s best friends was another woman painter—her sister-in-law, Philip Hale’s older sister, Ellen Day Hale [1986.645].
Lilian Hale’s ethereal images of contemplative women in interiors won her much critical and popular acclaim during her lifetime, and collectors sought them avidly. She staged her compositions with models in her studio, sometimes creating both charcoal and oil versions of the same theme. A related and highly finished charcoal drawing entitled Spring Morning [65.1336], dated 1908, employs a composition similar to this one, but it substitutes a bowl of daffodils for the branch of cherry blossoms seen here.
In L’Edition de Luxe Hale posed her favorite model, Rose Zeffler (called Zeffy), with a book in front of a window and allowed soft light, filtered by curtains, to bathe the scene in a rosy glow. These pink tones echo in the delicate flowers, the polished table, and Zeffy’s coppery hair. Carefully balanced and exquisitely rendered, the whole composition is an “edition de luxe,” just like the luxurious volume the young woman holds and to which the painting’s title refers. The composition reflects Hale’s belief in the importance of beauty and craftsmanship. Her traditional artistic ideals, however, did not prevent her from pursuing an active and successful professional career. Hale’s images of quiet women earned her national recognition.
This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).
Upper left: Lilian Westcott Hale 1910.
1911, sold by the artist to Sarah Cabot (Mrs. Andrew) Wheelwright (1835-1917), Boston, through the Copley Gallery; 1917, by descent to her daughter, Mary Cabot Wheelwright (1878-1958), Boston; 1935, gift of Miss Mary C. Wheelwright to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 3, 1935)
Gift of Miss Mary C. Wheelwright
Reproduced with permission.