biographie de Thomas HILL (1829-1908)

Birth place: Birmingham, England

Death place: Raymond, CA

Addresses: Boston, Phila., and San Fran.

Profession: Landscape, portrait, and still life painter

Studied: apprenticed to a coach-painter in Boston; PAFA with Peter Rothermel, 1853; and in Paris, with Paul Meyerheim, 1866.

Exhibited: Art Union, San Fran., 1865 (prize); NAD, 1866; Paris Univ. Expo., 1867; Pallette Cl., NYC, 1871 (bronze med.); Boston AC, 1873-88; Brooklyn AA, 1874; Centennial Expo., Philadelphia, 1876 (med.); PAFA, 1877, 1884 (med.), 1887; World's Columbian Expo., Chicago, 1893; received over 31 awards.

Member: Boston AC; San Fran. Art Assoc.; Bohemian Club; San Fran. School Design

Work: SFMA; Oakland Mus.; Bancroft Lib., UC Berkeley; Denver AM; California Capitol; LACMA; Worcester MA; Univ. Kansas MA; Oakland MA; Crocker Museum, Sacramento, CA; Shelburne (VT) Mus.

Comments: Brought to America by his parents in 1844, he grew up in Taunton, MA, where he began his career as a decorative painter until he moved to Boston in 1847. He married around 1851, and in 1853 moved to Philadelphia where he took up portrait and flower painting. He continued to paint carriages but also exhibited with success both at the PAFA and Baltimore. He joined many of the White Mountain, NH, painters during summers. From 1861-66, he lived in San Francisco where he was listed as a portrait painter but also painted the grandiose Western landscapes for which he became well-known. In 1867, he left California to study in Paris, where he exhibited at the Universal Expo., and on his return to America worked in Boston from 1867-71. In 1871, he returned to San Francisco, establishing a studio in that city but spending a great amount of time at his Yosemite studio and in nearby Raymond. His patrons included the Crocker family. In 1874, he helped V. Williams found the San Francisco School of Design. In 1876, Leland Stanford bought Hill's 6' x 10' Yosemite Valley" and "Donner Lake" for the then huge amount of $11,000 after they were displayed at the Phila. Centennial Expositon. In 1887, naturalist John Muir commissioned him to paint landscapes for his Alaska project, and in 1888, nineteen of his illustrations were published in Muir's "Picturesque California." From the late 1870s-early 1880s, he often traveled through New England. While he is best remembered for his majestic landscapes of California and his panoramic views of the Yosemite Valley, an important historical work is his grandiose, "Driving the Last Spike," picturing the completion of the Union-Pacific Railroad (however, the painting was rejected by Leland Stanford). In 1896 he suffered the first of a series of strokes; his death on June 30, 1908 was rumored to have been a suicide.

Sources: G&W; WW08; WPA (Calif.), Introduction to California Art Research, II; WPA Guide, California; DAB; Clement and Hutton; Rutledge, PA; Phila. CD 1855; Rutledge, MHS; Swan, BA; WPA Guide, N.H.; Born, American Landscape Painting, fig. 46, 71; N.Y. Evening Post, July 2, 1908, obit. More recently, see Hughes, Artists in California, 256; Hjalmarson, "Thomas Hill" Magazine Antiques, Nov. 1984, p.1200-06; Muller, Paintings and Drawings at the Shelburne Museum, 79 (w/repro.); Falk, Exh. Record Series.

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