A New Range of Landscape Painting Subjects

On landscape painting > As a plein air painter, you are part of one of the largest art movements in history. Learn about those who have helped start this movement in some way, and be inspired to continue your own journey.

Our Plein Air Heritage

Thomas Hill (1829-1908)

Sometimes artists redefine themselves and reach a more enthusiastic group of collectors simply by painting a new range of landscape subjects.

That’s what happened to Thomas Hill when he stopped trying to paint like other East Coast artists associated with the Hudson River School, moved his family to California, and created dramatic representations of the West Coast landscape.

Born in England and trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Hill struggled to support his large family by painting Hudson River-style landscapes as well as decorations on furniture and carriages.

In 1865, he made a trip to Yosemite Valley in California and discovered what became his signature landscape subject.

Plein air painting history - Thomas Hill, “Artist at His Easel in the Woods"
Thomas Hill, “Artist at His Easel in the Woods,” n.d., oil on paper mounted on panel, 21 x 13-3/4 inches

For the remainder of his career, Hill made yearly painting trips to Yosemite and Mount Shasta in California and back to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

In the company of other plein air painters, he created oil paintings to use as the basis of studio paintings.

It is likely that this painting of a fellow plein air painter was created during one of his painting trips through California.

Watch a documentary about the plein air painting movement to learn more about its history and evolution:


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  1. I think it’s really intriguing that the plein air painter he depicted has built a fire to…..do what? Keep him warm? Maybe more to keep the mosquitos away, judging from the neckerchief. But perhaps it was an aesthetic decision….nothing like a whiff of smoke to loosen up the composition and add a modicum of comfort to the scene…especially since he had some “smoke color” available on his palette, from the sky.


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