The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) will be presenting the exhibition Wanderer: Travel Prints by Ellen Day Hale from October 4, 2013 through January 5, 2014. This exhibition will be featuring approximately 25 etchings by Ellen Day Hale, as well as materials she used for the full printing process, which includes her printing plates, transfer drawings and painted studies. Hale was also an active participant in reviving the etching printmaking technique at the turn of the 20th century. After she pursued her art training in Paris, Hale then traveled extensively through Europe, America, and the Middle East.
Hale’s evocative landscape prints are said to demonstrate a more contemplative mood than her bold painted portraits. Drawn from NMWA’s collection, this exhibition will present the artist’s intricately detailed etchings of people she had encountered on her journeys, landscapes and cities.
Ellen Day Hale was born in Worcester, Massachusetts and displayed an early interest in drawing. It is thought that her first teacher was her aunt, Susan Hale, who was a successful water-colorist and advocate for the advancement of women in the arts. Hale’s father, Edward Everett Hale was an accomplished author and chaplain of the U.S. Senate and her great-aunt was Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
William Rimmer, a Boston sculptor, gave Hale formal art training at first until she moved on to painting and drawing classes taught by William Morris Hunt. Hale also took art classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) before leaving for her first trip to Europe. During her first journey from 1881-82, she traveled to Spain, Italy, France, Belgium and Holland. The majority of her trip was spent in Paris, France, where she studied in the ateliers of Emile-Auguste Carolus Duran and Jean-Jacques Henner. It has also been noted that she took formal classes at the Académie Julian, the Jardin des Plantes and the Académie Colarossi.
In 1883 Hale returned to the United States for a couple of years where she met an artist from Philadelphia, Gabrielle de Veaux Clements, who in turn became her lifelong companion and also taught Hale printmaking techniques. Hale was able to work on an intimate scale because of the etching techniques she was learning, and she used this process to document her travels. Her landscape prints reflect the fierce popularity, at the turn of the last century, of romantic images of faraway locales.
The etching technique in printmaking was said to be developed during the Renaissance but then fell out of favor to other techniques being used. It was then revived during the mid-19th century because artists objected to the proliferation of precise and mechanically reproduced illustrations, like the ones shown in books and magazines. The etching process involves the coating of a metal plate with an acid-resistant layer through which the artist cuts an image. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath, which “bites” the exposed metal, creating depressions in the printing plate.
After returning to Paris in 1885, Hale wrote down her experiences for the Boston Traveller, which encouraged female artists to travel abroad. Continuing her own travels, she went to California in the early 1890’s where she produced a number of etchings of former Spanish missions including San Juan Capistrano (c.1893). Hale’s etching of this specific mission captures the ruins of the Great Stone Church amongst the rugged Western landscape.
Hale returned back to Massachusetts in 1893, but she continued to travel throughout her life. She did a tour of Europe in 1895, traveled through Sicily and France in 1921-22 and visited the Middle Eastern countries of Egypt, Syria and Palestine in 1929, which inspired her print Milk Delivery, Cairo in 1930. She also visited many states throughout the U.S. such as Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and South Carolina.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts was originally founded in 1981 and opened in 1987. It is the only museum solely dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the visual, performing and literary arts. The museum’s extensive collection features 4,500 works ranging from the 16th century up until the present and includes artists such as Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Alma Thomas, Lee Krasner, Louise Bourgeois, Chakaia Booker and Nan Goldin. The NMWA is also an organization dedicated to teach, enrich and inspire the community through artwork made by women.
WHEN: October 4, 2013 – January 5, 2014
The Museum is open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon – 5 p.m.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C., 20005
There are no tickets for this particular exhibit, but museum admission is as follows:
Students and Visitors 65+: $8
NMWA Members and youths 18 and under: Free
Free Community Days are on the first Sunday of the month.