Artist AND Mother


We are a special breed - artist mothers. I feel connected to those of whom I follow in their footsteps. It's not the easiest path we have chosen - or has chosen us?? That's up for debate, but not in this post...

As Mother's Day approaches, I thought a "mother / artist" post would be appropriate. And one of my favorite historic artist mothers was Abby Williams Hill (1861 - 1943) With ties to Yellowstone and a love for plein air painting, she is a kindred spirit!

Abby with her children living and 'home schooling' in a tent while she was traveling to paint.

I wish I could have met her, but instead I have read a lot about her. She was a painter and activist with an insatiable love of travel and learning, who painted the West including time in Yellowstone. With my curiosity peaked, several years ago I visited the University of Puget Sound (where a large collection of her work resides) and met with their curator, toured the campus to see more of her original work and read some of her journals. Very interesting lady, she was.

She grew up in Iowa, later studying with William Merritt Chase in New York. In 1888, while in New York she married Dr. Frank Hill. They had their first child in 1889, who was partially paralyzed. They proceeded to adopt 3 more children. For most of her career as an artist, Hill took all four children along with her, exposing them to both the wonders and hazards of the natural world she so beautifully depicted on canvas - the Cascade Mountains, Olympic Mountains, Yellowstone and more.

Abby Williams Hill is second from the left in the family photo.

In 1895, she had her first experience painting in the wilds of the West - the Cascade Mountains in Washington. In 1904, she was a featured artist at the World's Fair, displaying 20 paintings. In 1905 and again in 1906, she was commissioned by the Northern Pacific Railroad to create a series of paintings in Yellowstone.

Abby's children on the edge of the Yellowstone Canyon overlooking the Falls, where she was set up to paint.

There's a good story about her painting at the edge of the Yellowstone Canyon. Her painting blew off, down into the Canyon, got caught on a snag and retrieved by some very brave volunteers!

Emerald Pool by Abby Williams Hill

Firehole Pool by Abby Williams Hill

(which looks a lot like Cliff Geyser in Black Sand Basin here to me)

This photo I took at the University of Puget Sound ...

Yellowstone Falls From Below by Abby Williams Hill

"But behind all your stories is always your mother's story, because hers is where yours begins."

Mitch Albom

Happy Mother's Day!


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