Thomas Hill. “Yosemite Valley.” Boston: L. Prang, 1869. 15 1/2 x 25 1/2. Chromolithograph. Mounted onto original canvas and stretcher as issued. Some light creases and touch-up in sky and middle distance, but still very attractive with vibrant color. In original period frame. Framed size is 23 x 33. Very rare.
An original antique print of Yosemite Vally by Thomas Hill. Hill was born in Birmingham England and moved with his family to Taunton, Massachusetts in 1844. Hill studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under Peter F. Rothermel. Hill began his painting career as a New England artist along with a group of others artists/friends that included Asher B Durand, George Inness Benjamin Champney, Albert Bierstadt and others. Hill moved to California in 1861 for health reasons and painted Yosemite for the first time in 1862. From 1868 to 1870 Hill resided in Boston and exhibited his monumental painting of the Yosemite Valley. The painting was exhibited in Philadelphia at the Centennial Exhibition and was considered one of the best on display. The painting sold for a princely sum of $5000. Louis Prang, a color printer in Boston was so impressed with this painting that he ordered a small painted copy which Hill himself produced from which the chromolithograph was then made. The print was so well received by the public that Hills work became famous afterward. Hill returned to Yosemite to live and paint until his death in 1908.
Louis Prang was the most successful American publisher of chromolithographs. Born in Germany, Prang learned to print in color from his father, who was a calico printer. He immigrated to the United States in 1850 for political reasons. After a short-lived partnership as a chromolithographic printmaker with Julius Mayer (Prang & Mayer), Prang set up his own firm of L. Prang & Co. in 1860. His initial success came from his many small prints collected by members of the public and kept in albums. By the 1860s, Prang stated to issue color-printed copies of famous paintings and launched his magazine, Prang’s Chromo: A Journal of Popular Art. Prang’s prints based on oils and watercolors were highly praised by the press and many influential persons, and these art prints became hugely successful. Eventually Prang issued about 800 chromolithographs of this sort, which he advertised as: “PRANG’S AMERICAN CHROMOS. ‘THE DEMOCRACY OF ART’ . . . Our Chromo Prints are absolute FACSIMILES of the originals, in color, drawing, and spirit” Prang used the paintings of many of America’s leading artists to produce his prints, including those by A.F. Tait, Eastman Johnson, Thomas Moran, F.S. Church, and Albert Bierstadt. This print after the Thomas Hill painting is a superior example of the quality that chromolithography could achieve.