Indians at Campfire, Yosemite Valley, California
75.3 x 115.6 cm (29 5/8 x 45 1/2 in.)
(Birmingham, England, 1829 - 1908, Raymond, California)
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of C.R. Smith, 1976
This impressive work by Thomas Hill depicts the majestic Yosemite Valley as seen from Inspiration Point, located three thousand feet above the valley floor, purportedly the most beautiful and striking vantage point in Yosemite. Whereas the massive, snow-capped mountain peaks in the far distance and the cascading waters of Bridalveil Falls just off-center of the composition appear as they might have been seen in the mid-1880s, the small party of figures in the lower quadrant is an artistic device symbolizing the romantic notion of a time when people lived in harmony with nature. In fact, the U.S. Army years earlier had evicted the Indians who once inhabited the valley. And in 1864 the federal government set aside a large tract of land there for public recreation, prohibiting settlement as well as future mining and development.
Shortly after Hill’s earliest trip to Yosemite in 1862, his gorgeous mountain views began to enjoy both popular and critical success. In 1884 the British artist moved from his base in San Francisco and established a studio in Yosemite, where he produced an estimated five thousand paintings of the valley for the tourist market.