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The Romantic landscape painter Thomas Hill was born in Birmingham, England, in September 1829. By the age of fifteen, he moved with his family to Massachusetts, USA. Not only did Thomas become an outstanding landscape painter, but so did his brother Edward.
The artist got married to Charlotte Elizabeth Hawkes in his early twenties, in 1851 and the couple would eventually have nine children together. A couple of years later, Hill was apprenticed by Peter Frederick Rothermel at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
He was deeply inspired by the American movement, the Hudson River School, and would often draw and paint outdoors with members of the group, like Benjamin Champney. During this period, the young artist would travel to places like the White Mountains in search of breathtaking landscapes to portray.
In 1865, Hill visited for the first time what would eventually be his most famous motif; the Yosemite Valley. The artist traveled alongside the photographer Carleton Watkins, as well as the painter Virgil Williams. By this time, Hill and his family lived in San Francisco, California, for about a decade, but by 1866, they moved to the East Coast, only to return to San Francisco in 1873. Hill continued traveling in search of landscapes for his art. During this period, he visited Europe and often returned to the West Coast, where he was still affiliated with the San Francisco Art Association.
Unlike many Classical painters, Thomas Hill painted landscapes based on his experience from nature - meaning he created his paintings mostly outdoors. The painter was deeply moved by the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Yosemite Valley. He was very close to the American Hudson River School, as he identified with the groups’ way of creating art. This technique of painting outdoors was adopted by many Modern artists, like the Impressionists. As a Romanticist painter, Hill’s work would represent his idealized vision of nature’s perfection.
Hill created many masterpieces throughout his career. In 1872, he painted Great Canyon of the Sierra, Yosemite, a breathtaking painting of one of his favorite spots. Like his friends of the Hudson River School, Hill’s portrayal of human figures would never be as important as the landscape itself - representing nature’s power over humankind. The canvas Indian Camp Yosemite is a beautiful example of the different dimension the artist gave to the human figure and the grandiosity of nature.
Along with working as a full-time artist, Hill also ran an art supply store and art gallery during a period in his career. He also worked with commissions for John Muir, an environmentalist from Alaska. The artist separated from his wife during the 1880s. He continued producing in his studio located in the Yosemite National Park until the final stages of his life. He traveled back to California after suffering from a stroke. Thomas Hill passed away in Raymond, California, in June 1908.