Theme/Style – Post-Impressionism, plein air, landscape, figurative work, interiors, genre scenes
Media – Oils, watercolors
Artistic Focus – Anna Hills’s appreciation of the sunshine and open countryside of Southern California is reflected in her thoughtful and vibrant plein air depictions of mountain, coastal and desert scenes. She is also remembered for her immense contributions to the development of the Laguna Beach Art Association, and she remains a prominent figure in the art history of Southern California.
Career Highlights –
- Anna Althea Hills was born in Ravenna, Ohio in 1882. She studied art at Michigan’s Olivet College and then at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1902. She received a diploma from Cooper Union in New York in 1908, winning awards in oil painting, watercolor and still life as a student there; and also studied with Arthur Wesley Dow in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She then returned to Olivet to teach art before finishing her art training at the Académie Julian in Paris, and staying on in Europe for several years to paint in France, the Netherlands and England.
- Upon her return to the U.S. in 1913, Hills lived in Los Angeles, and had solo shows at the Kanst Galleries in 1913, 1914, and 1916.
- By 1914 Hills had settled permanently in Laguna Beach, which she had often visited on sketching trips. She exhibited in the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego in 1915, winning a bronze medal, and also painted scenes of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.
- Hills exhibited with the California Art Club in 1914-1916 and the San Francisco Art Association in 1916; and won another bronze medal at the California State Fair in Sacramento in 1919.
- She also continued to exhibit in Los Angeles, with solo shows at the Ebell Club in 1918, and the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in 1919 and 1924. She also exhibited with the Artists of Southern California at Los Angeles’s Exposition Park in 1920.
- Hills was very active in the art community in Laguna Beach, teaching painting from her studio and playing a major role in organizing the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918. She exhibited with the group often, winning their Landscape Prize in 1922 and 1923. A six-time president of the Association, Hills was instrumental in establishing the group’s first gallery in 1929.
- Despite a disabling spinal injury, Hills was extremely energetic and adventurous, taking trips into remote mountain areas to sketch. She was also fond of the desert and during the winter months would often stay in towns such as Banning and Hemet, trekking into the surrounding countryside to draw.
- Hills was a member of the Chicago Galleries Association, and was included in their annual spring exhibition in 1930, and also exhibited with the Washington Water Color Club in Washington, DC.
- Anna Hills passed away in Laguna Beach in 1930. As a testament to her stature not just as an artist but as a revered citizen of her community, the city’s businesses were closed during her funeral, and the many artists who attended the service sat together in tribute. In 1931 a bronze plaque in her memory was unveiled at the Laguna Art Museum, and a hall at the city’s Community Presbyterian Church bears her name.