Changing trends in painting during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries caused an incredible decline in the interest paid to the work of many artists, and Thomas Hill was one of them.
A landscape painter, Hill was born in England and immigrated to the United States at the age of fifteen. He studied formally at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and made many painting excursions in Massachusetts and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where he worked alongside other landscape painters such as Asher B. Durand, George Inness and Albert Bierstadt. The cold eastern winters began to take a toll on Hill's health, however, and he was forced to relocate his family to the warmer California coast.
In 1861 he had settled in San Francisco and was working as a portrait painter when he made his first painting excursion into Yosemite. Five years later he exhibited his paintings from that journey in the United States and in Paris, where he was briefly the student of Paul Meyerheim, before returning to Boston in 1868.
In 1871 Hill and his family had once again returned to San Francisco, where he helped to found the San Francisco Art Association. Around this time he began to maintain two studios, one in his home in Oakland and the other in Yosemite. Eventually the studio was his full time home, excluding the area's harsh winter months. Throughout the 1880s Hill's work was in great demand, but towards the turn of the century his work was beginning to be viewed as old-fashioned and out of date.
At the time of his death Hill had painted approximately five thousand portraits of the Yosemite area, and has rightfully earned himself the nickname the "Artist of the Yosemite" for his unwavering love of the landscape in that region. Today his works are viewed with a tremendous amount of respect, and he is considered a Master of the American landscape.
A series of strokes during the last three years of his life left him completely disabled and in need of round the clock care. His death in June of 1908 has been considered a suicide.