Born in England, Thomas Hill immigrated in his teens with his family to the United States, settling in Taunton, Massachusetts. Hill worked as a carriage painter and decorator, then, in 1853, enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The following year, he began working as a professional landscapist, painting in the White Mountains of New Hampshire while residing in Boston. Fellow artists Edward Hill —his older brother—and Virgil Williams often accompanied him. Health concerns prompted his move to San Francisco in 1861. He made his first trip to the Yosemite Valley in 1862, accompanied by William Keith and Williams, who was making his first trip to California.
In 1866, Hill traveled to New York City, where he exhibited one of his Yosemite paintings at the National Academy of Design. He made a brief trip to Paris where he was influenced by Barbizon school and studied with German painter Paul Frederich Meyerheim. Living once again in Boston, Hill exhibited a large, ten-feet-wide panoramic view of Yosemite Valley. Again, for health reasons, he moved to San Francisco where he became active with the Bohemian Club and the San Francisco Art Association. The artist continued to make frequent trips to the Yosemite Valley between 1883 and 1886, often staying at the Wawona Hotel, which was owned by his son-in-law, John Washburn. Hill also painted in Yellowstone and went to Alaska in 1887, commissioned by noted naturalist John Muir to paint Muir Glacier. Yet, he is best known for his Yosemite works. William H. Gerdts noted that “no other artist captured the spectacular vistas of the region while so accurately portraying its natural history.”
Works in Our Collection
Yosemite Falls, Bear on Log
Oil on canvas, c. 1875
50 x 30 inches
Gift of the Carl S. Dentzel Estate