Thomas Hill Biography

Born in Birmingham, England on September 11, 1829.  After coming to the U.S. in 1844, Hill settled with his family in Taunton, MA and worked in Boston as a carriage painter.  His art studies were begun at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  During the 1850’s he painted in Massachusetts and often in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with a group of artists that included Durand, Inness, Champney, Bierstadt, Virgil Williams, and brother Edward Hill.  For health reasons he sought a milder climate and, with wife and children, made the overland trek to San Francisco in 1861.  After establishing a home and studio, he advertised as a portrait painter.  The next year he made his first trip to Yosemite accompanied by William Keith and Virgil Williams.  In 1866 he exhibited Yosemite scenes at the National Academy and then sailed to Paris where he was a student of Paul Meyerheim and exhibited at the Universal Expo.  Returning to the U.S., he stayed in Boston during 1868-70 and then returned to San Francisco to help organize the San Francisco Art Association.  His marriage was not a happy one.  While his wife lived in the family home in Oakland, Hill built a studio in Yosemite in 1883 and for his remaining years the park was his home except during winters when he lived nearby in Raymond or at his studio in San Francisco.  When Virgil Williams died in 1886, Hill was briefly the director of the School of Design.  During the 1870’s and 1880’s his works were in demand and brought high prices.  By the 1890’s his epic landscapes were considered old-fashioned and for half a century or more his work was in eclipse.  Today his work has regained its proper stature and he is considered a giant in American art.