Yosemite Falls, Bear on Log

Thomas Hill
Yosemite Falls, Bear on Log
Oil on canvas, c. 1875
50 x 30 inches
Gift of the Carl S. Dentzel Estate
1984.025.265

This painting depicts Vernal Falls with Half Dome in the background. Although less striking than some of Thomas Hill’s large, panoramic paintings, it nevertheless provides a dramatic statement of the wonder and beauty of Yosemite. Vernal Falls, flowing through the Merced River, is set against a quickly rendered image of Half Dome. The vertical format of the composition allows the artist to depict the full flow of the falls as it tumbles into the rocks and fallen trees below. Sunlight has created a rainbow, and a fine mist is seen at the base—the Native Americans called the falls Yanopah (“little cloud”). Dwarfed by the landscape are two men on horseback who are observing the bear crossing the stream on a fallen branch.