AMHERST, ELIZABETH FRANCES (Hale), water-colourist; b. 1774 in England, daughter of William Amherst, a British army officer, and Elizabeth Patterson; m. 3 April 1799 John Hale* in London, and they had four daughters and eight sons, including Jeffery* and Edward*; d. 18 June 1826 at Quebec.
Elizabeth Frances Amherst spent her childhood and adolescent years in England. In June 1799 her husband was appointed deputy paymaster general of the British troops stationed in the Canadas. She accompanied him to his posting at Quebec, and the young couple took up residence in the Upper Town. Through the years he accumulated titles and offices which assured him some prominence and a favourable place in society. Apart from occasional stays in England (particularly in 1812 and 1816), Elizabeth lived mainly at Quebec, first on Rue Saint-Louis, and then from 1818 on Rue des Carrières. The following year her husband purchased the seigneury of Sainte-Anne-De La Pérade, where the family spent the summer months.
In addition to attending to her family and social obligations, Elizabeth Hale took up drawing and painting in water-colours. The Public Archives of Canada has some of her works. The one best known is a water-colour depicting York (Toronto) in 1804, not long after it had been founded, which circulated widely as a print. As others have noted, it is quite possible that she copied the scene from a water-colour done on the spot by Edward Walsh in 1803, since there is no documentary evidence that she made a trip to York during this period. Another water-colour of hers, dating from 1805 and similar in treatment and dimensions to the previous one, shows the Île des Cèdres, on the St Lawrence above Montreal. There is a small sketchbook containing various wash and pen-and-ink landscapes that depict the surroundings in which the artist lived: the seigneury of Sainte-Anne-De La Pérade and its environs, Quebec, Sleepy Hollow (the Hales’s residence at Sherbrooke), and Guisborough, England, where relatives of John Hale lived. The Public Archives also has a small wash drawing of a picturesque site at Deschambault and a variety of European scenes that are unsigned but are attributed to Mrs Hale. In addition, the Musée du Québec owns two signed water-colours dated 1823: the bridge over the Rivière du Sault à la Puce, and the St Lawrence off Pointe-aux-Trembles (Neuville).
Like the topographical artists of her time, whose style is indeed similar to hers, Elizabeth Hale liked to paint urban and rural landscapes in which she emphasized some interesting structure or natural feature such as a river or falls. As a rule, human figures are simplified and are of secondary importance in her work.
ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 20 juin 1826. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, dossier E. F. Amherst (Hale). PAC, MG 23, GII, 18; MG 55/30, no.51 (Lucy Hale Machin); Picture Division, Hale and Amherst coll. Quebec Mercury, 20 June 1826. W. M. E. Cooke, W. H. Coverdale Collection of Canadiana: paintings, water-colours and drawings (Manoir Richelieu collection) (Ottawa, 1983). J. R. Harper, Early painters and engravers in Canada ([Toronto], 1970). J. C. Webster, Catalogue of the John Clarence Webster Canadiana collection, New Brunswick Museum (2v., Saint John, N.B., 1946), 2: 353.