Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options


    THOMAS HILL (British/American, 1829-1908)
    Columbia River
    Oil on artist's board
    14-1/4 x 21 inches (36.2 x 53.3 cm)
    Signed lower left: T. Hill
    Titled verso: #6 Columbia River

    Mrs. Beatrice Dunn, Bismarck, Arkansas;
    Private collection, Hot Springs, Arkansas (by descent).

    Columbia River* most likely dates to the late 1880s, when Thomas Hill was discovering fresh subjects after decades of painting the Yosemite Valley. In 1886, Hill agreed to assume the interim directorship of the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, a post that ultimately proved unwieldy and unfulfilling. When his friend the naturalist John Muir commissioned him to paint Muir Glacier in Alaska the following year, Hill jumped at the opportunity, eager to leave behind his institutional job and unhappy marriage for outdoor adventure. Together the men embarked on a cruise to Alaska, which introduced Hill along the way to new landscapes in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Here, he depicts a site probably visited on this trip, the Columbia River, especially famous for its king salmon, which snakes from Canada through Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific near Astoria. Positioning himself like a tourist with camera in hand, Hill frames a perfect postcard, using the mist-kissed Cascade Mountains to bound the blue-green river in the foreground. Signs of recreation - ladies promenading on a boardwalk, a fly fisherman casting for salmon, and a hotel nestled among the mountain evergreens - suggest that this was a vacation spot, possibly near Portland, where the Northern Pacific Railroad met the Columbia. Employing brushwork that is gestural in places and more tightly controlled in others, Hill effects in this small format a wide range of textures, tones, and colors. Especially masterful is his rendering of people and animals - note the spectators in the hotel gazebo or the dog walking behind the ladies - with only a few strokes of paint.

    *Although the painting is inscribed verso "#6 Columbia River," new research suggests that this scene is not of the Pacific Northwest, but rather of the Canadian Rockies with the famous Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta, on the Bow River. Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1887 and 1888, the hotel was known for its Scottish castle-like architecture and has remained a premiere resort to this day. Hill likely stayed in the hotel shortly after its opening, while on his tour of Canada en route to Alaska.

    More information about THOMAS HILL, also known as Hill, Thomas, Thomas Hill.

    Condition Report*: Good condition, scattered in-painting throughout sky region, heavier in central cloud region, and five small dots in river in lower right quadrant.  To provide additional strength to the thin artist's board on which Hill painted this landscape, the owner had it backed with a sheet of acid-free foam core.  This was affixed by a professional conservator to the center of Hill's original board with a 100% reversible acid-free adhesive (beva resin).
    *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. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2009
    16th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,914

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    This item cannot be shipped using standard methods. Please contact us for more information. Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions  |  Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments |  Glossary of Terms

    Sold on Dec 16, 2009 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2022 April 21 Photographs Signature® Auction .

    Learn about consigning with us

    I have to say I am very pleased with the final results and Heritage Auctions service.
    Philip M.,
    Truckee, CA
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search