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Anna Althea Hills 1882-1930

As a teenager, Anna pursued a passion for painting, leading to studies at Olivet College, the Art Institute in Chicago and Cooper Union in New York where she won awards in watercolor and oil still lifes. She continued her studies in America with Rhonda Holmes Nicholls and Arthur W. Dow at Ipswich, Massachusetts. In 1908, she commenced four years of study at the Academie Julian in Paris and with John Noble Barlow in England.

Anna Althea Hills Thumbnail
Anna Hills at her easel Anna Althea Hills White Roses
White Roses 1904
Anna Althea Hills Pale Opal
Pale Opal, watercolor
Anna Althea Hills Wooded Stream and Sheep
Wooded Stream and Sheep
oil on canvas
Anna Althea Hills Yellow Daffodils
Yellow Daffodils
Anna Althea Hills Red Roses
Red Roses

In 1913 at age thirty-one, she came to Los Angeles. By 1914, she had settled in Laguna Beach, and helped organize the Laguna Beach Art Association, serving six times as its president. In California, Anna departed from the dark tonal qualities of earlier works and used brighter colors in a more impressionistic style. Her favored themes included trees along the coast and California desert scenes.

Anna Hills works were exhibited widely including The California Art Club, the Panama-California International Exposition, the Laguna Art Association, the California State Fair, and the Washington Watercolor Club. Her solo shows included the Kanst Galleries in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Museum, the Fern Buford Galleries in Laguna Beach. Forty-four years after her death, the Laguna Beach Art Association sponsored an exhibition of her work in 1974. Her paintings hang in the Laguna Art Museum and the Irvine Museum, the Fleisher Museum, and the Orange County Museum.

Sources: Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick,
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West
, 1998;
Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California 1786 - 1940, 3d ed.

Ann Hills By the Roadside near El Torro 1914
By the Roadside near El Torro 1914 ,
Anna Hills, 14 x 11
Irvine Museum exhibition, 2011

Anna Hills, 1882-1930, California Impressionist,
and Tireless Advocate for the Arts

From our May 2016 Newsletter, by Daniel Rohlfing
Anna Hills Home Studio 1919
Anna Hills in her home studio, 1919
Photograph by her friend and fellow Laguna Art Association artist, photographer George E. Hurrell

Anna Althea Hills (1882-1930) was an exceptional California impressionist, well trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cooper Union in New York, and the Academie Julian in Paris. She was a daring and able painter, and valued member of the Laguna Beach Art Association.

Anna Hills Wooded Stream and Sheep
In a Barbizon style,
Wooded Stream and Sheep, 1924
Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Collection

Her early landscapes were done in the darker atmospheric Barbizon tradition, but once in California's light and landscape and after getting to know the incredible array of her Southern California contemporaries such as Edgar Payne and George Brandriff, she embraced brighter joyous colors, increasingly abandoning her brushes for her palette knife.

A tireless art teacher and an advocate for the arts, she helped establish the Laguna Beach Art

Anna Hills White Roses
White Daffodils 1904 

Watercolor, 17 1/2 x 14 
Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Collection

Association, the Laguna Museum of Arts, and could often be observed holding painting classes along Laguna Beach cliffs. She also administered art education for the Orange County schools by organizing traveling exhibitions of students' work

Anna Hills Red Roses
Red Roses 

Watercolor, 14 x 19
Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Collection
Anna Hills Yellow Daffodils
Yellow Daffodils

Watercolor, 15 1/8 x 19 3/4
Bodega Bay Heritage Gallery Collection

After her studies in Chicago and New York, she moved to Paris in 1908 and remained in Europe four years. During her stay, she attended the Julian Academy and painted landscapes throughout France, Holland, and the South of England.

In 1912, she moved to Southern California, and a year later, settled in Laguna Beach. According to Ruth Westphal (author of Plein Air Painters of California), Anna Hills became "a prominent figure in the art history of Southern California." Her favored locales were in and around Laguna Beach, Mission San Juan Capistrano, the California Coast as far north as Carmel, and she often spent the winter months in nearby Banning and Hemet from where she enjoyed painting excursions into the California and Arizona deserts.

Anna Hills Photo by George Hurrell
Anna Althea Hills,
Photo Portrait 1929
Silver gelatin photograph by George Hurrell,
fellow artist of the Laguna Beach Art Association
Anna Hills By the Roadside Near El Toro California
By the Roadside near El Toro, 1919
Private Collection, shown by the Irvine Museum
In addition to her intensive artistic output, she found time to teach and the drive to serve as a founding member of the Laguna Art Association, serving as its President for six terms. In the year before her death, she masterminded the campaign to establish what is now the Laguna Museum of Art.
Anna Hills Spell of the Sea
The Spell of the Sea
Irvine Museum Collection

Anna Hills Summer in the Canyon
Summer in the Canyon
Irvine Museum Collection

Throughout her teaching and Art Association activities, Anna sought to expand the public's awareness of art and the beauty of the Southern California landscape.

Tragically for the California Art World (according to the Fleischer Museum website), Anna Hills died of a heart attack at the age of 48. One can't help but wonder what her painting career could have produced if she had several more decades of life.

Anna exhibited widely, including exhibiting with the San Francisco Art Association, the California Art Club, the Panama Pacific Exhibition in San Diego, the Laguna Beach Art Association, the California State Fair in Sacramento. She had one-person shows at the Kanst Galleries in Los Angeles. the Los Angeles Museum, and California State University, Long Beach. Her works are often featured in shows offered by the Irvine Museum.
Anna Hills Sunshine and Shadow Orange Park California
Sunshine & Shadow,
Oil on board, 7 x 10
Orange Co. Park, California, 1915
Private Collection
Anna Hills Apple Blossoms
Springtime, Banning, California
Oil on paperboard, 10 x 14
Private Collection, shown by the Irvine Museum
Maurine St. Gaudens, author of Emerging from the Shadows, A Survey of Women Artists Working in California, 1860-1960 assisted in preparing this article.
Anna Hills page on our Site | Back to the Top

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