Monday, December 11, 2017

Anna A. Hills: California Impressionist

Anna Althea Hills
Anna Althea Hills was a renowned plein-air artist, community activist, and a key founder of the Laguna Art Museum. Hills was a six-term president of the Laguna Beach Art Association and is best-known for her work as a California Impressionist, specializing in landscape, marine, genre, and figure painting. 

Anna A. Hills was born in Ravenna, Ohio on January 28, 1882, daughter of a minister. Due to her father's occupation as a Presbyterian minister, the family lived in a number of locations during her childhood. Hills lost her mother in 1886 when she was just four years old, and her father remarried several years later. In 1898, Hills attended Olivet College in Michigan where she took painting and drawing classes. She went on to study at the School of the AIC (Art Institute of Chicago), and Cooper Union in New York where, in 1905, she won awards for her watercolor and oil painting and in 1906, for her still life work. She received her diploma in 1908 and culminated her art training abroad between the years 1908-1913 at the Academie Julian, Paris. 

Hills returned to the United States in 1914 and settled in Los Angeles. As she began to visit and sketch in Laguna Beach, surrounded by its scenic beauty, she decided to move there to pursue her art career. Hills taught painting, helped to organize the Laguna Beach Art Association and helped to found a new gallery which opened in 1929. 

Anna A. Hills
Sunshine & Shadow, 
Oil on board,
7 x 10 inches
Orange County Park, California
Private Collection
Hills' early landscapes were created using the darker atmospheric Barbizon tradition, but once in Southern California's light and varied landscape, in addition to her exposure to contemporaries Edgar Payne and George Brandriff, she embraced a lighter palette while abandoning her brushes for the palette knife. Coastal scenes from Laguna to Carmel including trees were among her favorite themes. She also loved the desert, staying in such locations as Banning and Hemet. Physically energetic, and despite a severe spinal injury, Hills took ruggedly adventurous trips into remote mountain areas to sketch. 

Anna A. Hills
Springtime, Banning, California

Oil on paperboard,
10 x 14 inches

Private Collection, shown by the Irvine Museum

Anna A. Hills
The Lone Palm 
Andreas Canyon
Oil on board
10 x 7 inches
Private Collection
Anna A. Hills
The Spell of the Sea
Laguna Beach near Moss Point
30 x 39
Oil on Canvas
Private Collection
Hills won the Bronze Medal at the Panama-California Exposition, San Diego in 1915; the Bronze Medal at the California State Fair, 1919; and the Landscape Prize at the Laguna Beach Art Association, 1922 and 1923. Anna A. Hills died at age 48 on June 19th, 1930. 

Anna A. Hills exhibited widely including with the San Francisco Art Association, the California Art Club, the Panama Pacific Exhibition in San Diego, the Laguna Beach Art Association, and the California State Fair in Sacramento. Her solo shows included the Kanst Galleries in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Museum of Art and California State University, Long Beach. Her works are often featured in shows curated by the Irvine Museum, Irvine, California.

The Eclectic Light Company, Into the Light, Anna Hills and California Light, retrieved December 11, 2017.
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1998, p. 142. 
Independent Spirits, Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1995, ppg 66, 68.
Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Monthly, Anna Althea Hills, 1880-1930,, retrieved December 11, 2017.


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