Art of the American West. Thomas Hill. 1829-1908. A-Z Challenge
View of Yosemite Valley, 1871
Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York
Thomas Hill was born in England on September 11, 1829. At the age of 15 he emigrated to the United States with his family and settled in Taunton, Massachusetts. In 1851 he married Charlotte Hawkes. He worked as a carriage painter, furniture decorator and interior designer.
When he was 24, he attended evening classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. During his years as a student he traveled to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and sketched alongside members of the Hudson River School. Then in 1856, he and his family moved to San Francisco, California. There he made his first trip to the Yosemite Valley in 1862 which made a huge impression. He traveled back and forth from New Hampshire, especially the White Mountains, to California.
The Hudson River School celebrates an awe for nature and paint man on a very small scale compared with the vast landscape. If you look carefully at the painting you can see tiny figures along the hill line, one on horseback. Hill painted "en plein air," finishing the small paintings begun outdoors, later indoors on large canvases. The Yosemite canvas was 30 by 48 inches.
Hill was acclaimed in his lifetime as an eminent artist with high praise for his work. An interesting fact was that this painting was chosen to be the backdrop of the head table at Barack Obama's inaugural luncheon to commemorate Lincoln's 1864 signing of the Yosemite Grant. Lincoln signed this in the midst of the Civil War. The Yosemite Grant was the first land grant to protect wild lands for the enjoyment of the people.