In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: Thomas Hill’s “Yosemite Valley.”
Born in England, Thomas Hill (1829-1908) immigrated to the United States as a teenager with his parents in 1844. At the age of 24, Hill made the drastic career choice to enroll at the Pennsylvania Academy of Design, studying under the American painter Peter Frederick Rothermel (1812–1895). It was during his time as a student that Hill began his first trips into the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where he sketched and painted alongside members of the Hudson River School. 1856 saw the opening of Hill’s first studio in Boston, but his paintings met with little interest. In the face of economic hardship, Hill and his growing family migrated to the west, settling in California in search of a better climate and economic opportunity.

Grace Carpenter Hudson, “Flowers (Pa-Tham),” 1907, oil on board, 9 3/4 x 4 3/4 in. Bonhams

Once Hill began painting landscapes of the American West, he quickly earned notoriety and in 1865 made his first trip into the ever-stunning Yosemite Valley. Within the year, Hill’s images of the valley were earning the artist steady patronage from all across California and the West. Like so many artists who came before and after him, Hill was greatly influenced by the awe-inspiring beauty of the American wilderness. During his lifetime, Hill’s paintings were a huge success and often commanded prices of $10,000. Hill has often been associated and favorably compared to the older generation of American landscape painters, including Albert Bierstadt and Benjamin Champney.

Mary Curtis Richardson, “Three Children Reading,” oil on canvas, 36 x 60 in. Bonhams

Collectors will be pleased to hear that several of Hill’s paintings will feature in the August 4 “California and Western Paintings & Sculpture” auction in Los Angeles. The auction, operated by Bonhams, includes countless stunning paintings by — among others — Grace Carpenter Hudson, Mary Curtis Richardson, Charles Partridge Adams, and Peter Moran.
The painting featured here, Hill’s “Yosemite Valley,” is a quintessential picture of the national park. A perfectly positioned Hill has captured most of the valley’s iconic landmarks, including the imposing El Capitan to the left, rising more than 3,000 vertical feet from the valley floor. To the right we observe the cascading waters of Yosemite Falls and the park’s most famous landmark, Half Dome, is in distant view toward the center of the canvas.
To view the full catalogue, visit Bonhams.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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