Friday, September 11, 2015

Anna Althea Hills: Early American Impressionist

Anna Althea Hills
Anna Althea Hills  was an American Plein-air painter who specialized in impressionist landscapes of the Southern California coast. Hills is best known for her lovely landscape, marine, genre, and figure painting. 
Anna Hills was born in Ravenna, Ohio on January 28, 1882. Hills, daughter of a minister, moved frequently with her family due to her father's occupation. She lived in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, where her mother passed away when she was only four years old, Olivet Michigan, Springfield, Illinois, and in Oberlin, Ohio. 
As a teenager, Hills explored her passion for painting. She attended Olivet College, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City from which she graduated in 1908. Hills continued her studies privately with Arthur Dow and Rhoda Holmes Nichols in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Hills won awards for her work in watercolor (1905) and oil painting and still life (1906). Hills traveled abroad for four years, studying in England with John Noble Barlow, and in 1908, attended the Academie Julian in Paris.
Anna Althea Hills
painting En plein air
In 1913, at thirty-one years old, Anna Hills returned to the United States. She moved to Los Angeles and changed her artistic focus from painting interior figures using the darker, tonalist style in which she was trained, to creating lighter and brighter impressionist landscapes in a higher chromatic range. Hills settled in Laguna Beach, California that same year where she opened a studio in which she worked and taught in the Plein-air tradition. A highly respected teacher, Hills promoted the visual arts through lectures and the organization of special exhibits, which circulated among Orange County public schools. Hills was inspired by the landscapes of the West with its coastal views, deserts, arroyos and mountains and was often seen painting on the hills above the coast of Laguna Beach.
Hills was also known for her community activism. She was involved with the Presbyterian church and ran the Sunday school. Hills was an active member of the California Art Club and held a membership at the Washington Watercolor club. She won the Bronze Medal at the Panama-California Exposition held in San Diego in 1915, the Bronze Medal at the California State Fair, Sacramento, California, in 1919, and received the Landscape Prize at the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1922 and 1923. Hills was president of the Laguna Beach Art Association for six years and, as president, it was Hills' advocacy that led to founding the Laguna Beach Art Museum there in 1929. 
Anna Althea Hills
By the Roadside Near El Torro
ca 1914
14 x 11 inches
Oil on canvas
Anna Althea Hills
California Hills
ca n.d.
7 x 10 inches
Oil on canvas board
Solo shows included the Kanst Galleries in Los Angeles, the Fern Buford Galleries in Laguna Beach. Forty-four years after her death, the Laguna Beach Art Association sponsored an exhibition of her work in 1974. Her paintings hang in the Laguna Art Musuem, the Irvine Musuem, Irvine, California, the Fleisher Museum of Russian and California Impressionism in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California.
Anna Althea Hills
Laguna Canyon Road
ca 1912
Oil on canvas
Anna Hills Gallery of Art
Anna Althea Hills
Springtime, Banning, California
ca 1916
Oil on paper/board10 x 14 inches
Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Hills loved the desert, staying often during the winter months at places such as Banning and Hemet, located near Palm Springs, from which she made sketching treks into the surrounding country. Sadly, Hills passed away on June 13, 1930 in Laguna Beach, California at the age of forty-eight. 

An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marion Yoshiki Kovinick, University of Texas Press, 1998, p. 142-143.
Independent Spirits, Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, Patricia Trenton, ed., University of California Press, 1995, pp. 68.
The Irvine Museum, Essay, Peaceful Awakening: Springtime in California, January 20-May 12, 2007,, retrieved September 11, 2015.
Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Monthly,, retrieved September 11, 2015.
Anna Hills Gallery, Anna Althea Hills Biography American Impressionist,, retrieved September 11, 2015.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Atlanta, Georgia
It's been a busy summer, now it's time to get organized and back to routine. My husband, Howard, attended a convention in Atlanta, Georgia, in July (YES, in the summer) and I was able to go along for the ride. We just fell in love with the area and its history. Howard, and I stayed downtown and did not bother to rent a car-we were able to get nearly everywhere we wanted to go on Atlanta's efficient public transportation system. Our no-humidity selves from Southern California were overwhelmed by Georgia's summer climate, but with a lot of water and air conditioned destinations, we enjoyed what Atlanta had to offer.
Atlanta History Center
For lovers of history, I heartily recommend the Atlanta History Center, located in the city's historic Buckhead district,, and its exhibition on the Civil War. Presented chronologically year by year, the exhibit addressed what the intentions were of both the Confederate and the Union forces in each battle, and the final outcome. It was fascinating. The artifacts and weaponry really provided a sobering view of a devastating time in American history.

The Swan House
ca 1928
The grounds of the Atlanta History Center are wooded and lovely. Several structures, such as the Swan House, Smith Family Farm, and the Wood Family Cabin, allowed a peek into the lives of local Georgians from the earliest settlements in the area up to the 1930s. The Swan House, traditionally known as one of the most recognized and photographed landmarks in Atlanta, is an elegant, classically styled mansion built in 1928 for the Edward H. Inman family, heirs to a cotton brokerage fortune. In popular culture, it was one of many Georgia set locations used during the filming of the movie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. 

Tullie Smith House
Smith Family Farm
ca 1840s
The Smith Family Farm includes the Tullie Smith House, a plantation-plain house built in the 1840s by the Robert Smith family. Originally located east of Atlanta, outside the city limits, the house survived the destruction in and around Atlanta during the Civil War. The house and detached kitchen were moved to the Atlanta History Center in the early 1970s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Margaret Mitchell
Gone With the Wind! It was written in Atlanta and the film's World Premiere was held there in December 1939. We visited the Margaret Mitchell House and took an apartment tour where Mitchell penned the novel. Writer, playwright, and philanthropist, Margaret Mitchell was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Gone with the Wind. The tale was made into an equally famous motion picture starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. An adjacent building on the grounds featured an exhibit entitled The Making of a Film Legend which chronicled the transformation of the novel into a film. Sadly, Mitchell died from injuries after being struck by a speeding car when she was just 49 years old.

Margaret Mitchell House
990 Peachtree St NE
Atlanta, Georgia
Food-yes, Atlanta has it. We loved the Southern charm and hospitality found in Georgia. Had to find some touristy restaurants and our favorite was Pitty Pat's Porch ( named after Scarlett O'Hara's aunt in Gone with the Wind. The restaurant was walking distance from our hotel right downtown and features southern food such as mint juleps, fried chicken with mashed 'taters' and gravy, topped off with hot peach cobbler...only on vacation, yum!

Since this is a blog about female artists working in the west, and at one time, Atlanta was a frontier, I must mention the art scene. It is lively. The High Museum of Art, Atlanta is a wonderful venue for an eclectic collection that includes the Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith to photography by Brett Weston, son of legendary photographer Edward Weston. Howard and I played in the interactive Los Tropos or Spinning Tops at the museum through November 29th. The colorful "tops" are found on the museum grounds where one can sit and/or spin, listen to music and enjoy performances every first and third Friday.

Los Tropos
High Museum of Art
Atlanta, Georgia
Welcome to Central Park, Atlanta. Centennial Olympic Park is a 21-acre public park located in downtown Atlantaowned and operated by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. The park was built by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games as part of the improvements for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics. Millions of visitors a year visit the park and events, including a summer popular music concert series (Wednesday WindDown) and an annual Independence Day concert and fireworks display bring in tourists and locals alike.

Centennial Park
Atlanta, Georgia
I hope you've enjoyed your trip to Atlanta as much as we did. We're looking forward to returning sometime soon to explore what we missed! Until next time, Bye, y'all.