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Thomas Hill
(1829-1908 San Francisco, CA)
"Half Dome Mountain, Mirror Lake, Yosemite, Calif.," 1867
Oil on canvas laid to canvas
Signed and dated lower right: T. Hill, titled in another hand on a label affixed to the stretcher, with alternate title on exhibition label affixed verso: "Mirror Lake"
26" H x 42" W

Exhibitions: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, "American Paintings in Los Angeles Collections," May 7 - June 30, 1974, No. ex.74.730.

Notes: Born in Birmingham England in 1829, Hill emigrated to the United States at 15, settling in Taunton, Massachusetts. Finding an artistic home outside the world of industrial Midlands England and New England, Hill took solace and inspiration in rugged mountainous landscapes. Hill began his education in 1851 at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and studied under its director, Peter Frederick Rothermel. Several Hudson River School painters were frequent companions on his painting trips to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the influence of their aesthetics, particularly grand idealized landscapes, are evident in Hill's work. In 1856 Hill moved west to the burgeoning city of San Francisco, a bustling but altogether different place than the busy cities of the East Coast. Nine years later in 1865, he made his first journey to Yosemite, beginning a relationship with the valley that would last for the rest of his life and where he would make yearly sketching trips.

"Half Dome Mountain, Mirror Lake, Yosemite, Calif." was executed just two years after Hill made his first trip to Yosemite in 1867. An early adopter of painting en plein air (to paint outdoors directly from the landscape), Hills' love of the outdoors and natural world is particularly evident in this work. Replacing the presence of man—typical in Hudson River School-style vistas—with a family of deer, the work transports the viewer into an immersive communion with nature. The calm, mirror-like lake in the foreground is cast in a deep shadow by the steep incline of the righthand peak, directing the eye inward to the mid-ground. There we begin to see the red hues of sunlight picked up by the yellow-green pine trees jutting up with warm-toned rolling gray peaks just beyond. Hints of jagged mountain tops in the background covered in a carpet of soft green grass are cooled by a shroud of mist echoing the streaks and puffs of the clouds in the upper sky.

Hill would return to the same valley again and again over his long career, creating a lasting body of work that celebrates the rugged nature of one of America's oldest National Parks. His earthy palettes of greens, browns, and warm grays record Yosemite as it was and, in many ways, still is; an earthly palace of reflection and closeness with nature where there is still craggy peaks, families of deer, and calm cool water.


  • Condition: Visual: Generally good condition. Craquelure throughout.
    Blacklight: Touch-up and crack-fill scattered throughout, concentrated mainly in the sky and mountains.
    Frame: 32" H x 48" W x 3" D

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November 3, 2019, 12:00 PM PST

Monrovia, CA, US

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