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    Description

    THOMAS HILL (American, 1829-1908)
    The Geysers, Sonoma, California
    Oil on canvas
    18 x 24 inches (45.7 x 61.0 cm)
    Signed lower left: T. Hill.

    PROVENANCE:
    Maxwell Galleries, San Francisco, California;
    Private collection, Woodside, California;
    Butterfields, San Francisco, California, November 19, 2002, lot 8132.

    From 1855 to 1880, "The Geysers" in the Mayacamas Mountains separating Sonoma from Napa Valley ranked among California's top tourist attractions. Named in 1847 by William Bell Elliot, a member of John Fremont's survey team who was bear hunting in the region, The Geysers were actually a network of fumaroles, hot springs, and steam vents. Early visitors traveled by stagecoach to "Geyserville," a makeshift town with tents and cabins, and then hiked or rode horses into the mountains to behold what Elliot called the stinking and bubbling "Gate of Hell." The more upscale Geysers Resort Hotel opened in the early 1850s and attracted such notables as Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, and Mark Twain to come tour the thermal wonders and bathe in the celebrated mineral springs.

    Thomas Hill no doubt visited The Geysers more than once, as he lived not far away in San Francisco. The Geysers, Sonoma, California, likely from the 1870s, is an almost exact visualization of the description of the site from the 1880 History of Sonoma County:

    "What a gorgeous panorama is there to be seen from the highest point of the road. In the immediate foreground are the steep mountainsides covered with a dense foliage of varied hues. From the depth of the gulches sturdy pines rear their lofty pinnacles until they seem almost within reach. . . . Far beyond the valley the hills and mountains rise in graceful succession . . . in the soft, hazy atmosphere so peculiarly Californian.

    "The Geysers is a name given to springs scattered along the Pluton River . . . [and] the principal ones of interest lie . . . across the river and up a narrow gorge, called the 'Devil's Canon.' A few yards further up the canon is the greatest wonder of all - the 'Witches' Caldron,' a large cavity, six feet by eight, and four feet deep. It is full of a black, boiling liquid, containing iron, sulphur, and alum. . . . We are near the head of the canon and the 'Steamboat Springs.' Steam is continually escaping in jets, and on favorable occasions it ascends three hundred feet. . . .

    "The entire infernal appearance of the region exceeds all language to portray. The metallic hills, the brimstone, the hot river, and volcanic rocks are draped, in many instances, in exquisite green; grass, shrubs and trees grow and overhang seething caldrons. The roar, the steam, the groans, are unearthly" (History of Sonoma County, San Francisco, Alley, Bowen, & Co., 1880).


    Condition Report*: Lined canvas; faint craquelure, particularly in sky; stable surface; under UV exam, there appears to be minor inpainting along top, left and right extreme edges to address frame wear, two small dots in lower center sky and distant mountain range, a line in tree foliage along rocky geyser edge (near center of composition), and a fleck in the bush by the dog, most visible under raking light. Framed Dimensions 24.25 X 30.25 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2014
    17th Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,841

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