JOHN WILLIAM HILL1812-1879
Landscape and topographical painter John William Hill was born in London in 1812, son of engraver John Hill. The family moved to America in 1819, where they lived in Philadelphia and New York City. There, young Hill served his apprenticeship under his father. Early in his career, he was a topographical artist employed by the New York State Geological Survey and Smith Brothers of New York. For these companies, he drew views of many American cities, including New Orleans, for published lithographs. After reading Ruskin’s Modern Painters, he turned exclusively to “naturalism” or “Pre-Raphaelitism,” of which he was considered the leading spirit in America. He made detailed pictures directly from nature, making sketches of bird nests and animals. He also made closely-observed watercolor paintings of wildflowers, gardens, birds, and landscapes, executed in a stipple technique with tiny brushes normally employed for miniatures. He died in 1879. His work was honored in An Artist’s Memorial, written and illustrated by his son after his father’s landscapes. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago has ninety-four of his watercolors of birds.