Thomas Hill American, 1829-1908


Thomas Hill was one of America’s most famous 19th century landscape painters, especially of panoramic views of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Hill was often referred to as the “Artist of Yosemite”. He received his formal artistic training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts before moving to San Francisco in 1861.  He visited Yosemite for the first time in 1865 and then traveled to Paris for two years of study. Back in California in the 1870s, Hill became Albert Bierstadt’s chief rival as the foremost painter of majestic Western scenery.  During his lifetime Hill’s paintings were favorably received in late 19th century California, often selling for $10,000, a large sum in those days. Many millionaires from San Francisco including society figures as well as such business and railroad tycoons as E.B. Crocker, William Ralston, William Sharon, D.O. Mills and Leland Stanford were counted amongst his patrons. Hill’s Yosemite Valley (from Below Sentinel Dome, As Seen from Artist’s Point (Collection of the Oakland Museum) was one of twelve American paintings out of about four hundred candidates to be awarded a bronze medal at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 by an international jury. In January 1886, the art critic of the San Franciscan praised a Hill Yosemite panorama as “a picture nobly conceived and royally executed. Whosoever looks upon it feels lifted for the moment above the petty interests and vexations of every-day life.”


It is interesting to note that Hill’s 1865 View of the Yosemite Valley on loan from the New York Historical Society served as the backdrop for the Head Table at Barack Obama’s 2009 Presidential Inaugural Luncheon. The painting was chosen because it represents the 1864 Lincoln signing of the Yosemite Grant, which set aside Yosemite Valley as a public reserve, the first time the federal government had taken such an action. 


Silver Medal, Maryland Institute, MD, 1853

First Prize, California Art Union, San Francisco, CA, 1865

Bronze Medal, New York Palette Club, New York, NY, 1871

1876 Medal, Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, PA, 1876

Gold Medals, California State Fairs, CA, 1879, 1890

Temple Medal, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, PA, 1884

Premium Award, Mechanics' Institute of San Francisco, CA , 1888

Bronze Medal, Mechanics' Institute of San Francisco, CA, 1894


Maryland Institute, MD, 1853

Mechanics Institute of San Francisco, CA, 1864, 1877, 1888

California Art Union, San Francisco, CA, 1865

National Academy of Design, New York, NY, 1866

Paris Exposition, 1867, 1889

New York Palette Club, NY, 1871

San Francisco Art Association, CA, 1872

Boston Art Club, 1873-1888

Brooklyn Art Association, 1874

Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, PA, 1876

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, PA, 1877, 1884, 1887

California State Fairs, CA, 1879, 1890

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 1884

Chicago Columbian Exhibition, 1893

Oakland Museum, CA, 1980

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, 1997

Museums and Public Collections

Anschutz Collection

Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA

Butler Institute of American Art, OH

Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, TX

California Historical Society, CA

California State Railroad Museum, CA

Chicago Union League Club Collection, IL

Crocker Art Museum, CA

C.R. Smith Collection

Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO

DePaul University Museum, Chicago, IL

Detroit Institute of Arts, MI

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, CA

Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK

Harmsen Western Art Collection

Kahn Collection

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, WY

National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA

Orange County Museum of Art, CA

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City, UT

Rockwell Museum of Western Art, Corning, NY

Society of California Pioneers, CA

Stanford Museum, CA

University of Kansas Museum of Art

Worcester Museum

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