Framing Thomas Hill’s Yosemite Valley View

Thomas Hill (1829-1908) was born in Birmingham, England, and immigrated to New England as a teenager. In 1851, he married Charlotte Elizabeth Hawkes and started his large family (eventually having nine children; grandchildren would include Norman Rockwell). Photo of Thos. HillAt age 24, he began studying painting, and before long befriended members of the Hudson River School, like Benjamin Champney. (We framed one great example, here, from a favorite destination of outings Hill went on with these artists, the White Mountains of New Hampshire.) In 1861, Hill moved his family to San Francisco. Four years later, in the company of painter Virgil Williams and photographer Carlton Watkins, he took what is evidently his first trip to Yosemite—the place he’s most closely associated with, and where, several years later, he would set up shop at the Wawona Hotel. On the original trail in to the Valley, the inn served as an ideal location for the artist to provide tourists with souvenirs of what was invariably a memorable visit to the natural wonder that is Yosemite Valley.

This painting by Hill, measuring 24″ x 20″, is an example of those works. The frame we made for it is a carved compound mitered frame, 3-1/2″ wide, in quartersawn white oak with Dark Medieval Oak stain. Thos. Hill painting of Yosemite Valley

Thos. Hill painting of Yosemite Valley

Thomas Hill, view of El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls, 26″ x 21″.

The customer had seen on my site another very similar Hill painting of Yosemite Valley—this one at left—and liked its gilt oak liner with painted lettering captioning the scene and the majestic landmarks, El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls. While we’d made a new frame for this earlier Hill, its liner was original. The customer asked us to replicate that for his painting.

Trevor Davis made the frame. I did the lettering on the liner.






Thos. Hill painting as backdrop to Obama inaugural luncheonHill’s most famous painting is his huge 8′ x 12′ “The Last Spike” (1881), honoring the 1869 completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. But his enduring reputation has at least as much to do with his paintings of Yosemite and the powerfully influential part they played in the conservation of American wilderness. This is evident in the fact that his View of the Yosemite Valley, commemorating Lincoln’s 1864 Yosemite Grant, was chosen as the backdrop for the head table at President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Luncheon in 2009, hosted by the Senate in Statuary Hall.

More posts on framing Thomas Hill may be found here and here.

—Tim Holton


« Back to Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *