A Woman Lured West: Abby Hill's Legacy of Art & Conservation

Guest post by Molly Hashimoto
Abby Williams Hill visited Horseshoe Basin in the North Cascades in 1903 after an arduous journey by steamer on Lake Chelan, on horseback and on foot.  Her commission from the Great Northern Railway was to create 22 oil canvases en plein air in 18 weeks, and much of that time was spent on trains, handcars, stages, steamboats and horses.  She endured the jeers of railroad workers and the discomfort of heat and cold, walking across snowfields, organizing baggage and caring for her children whom she often brought with her on her expeditions.
Learn more about this remarkable woman from Andrea Moody, consulting curator at the University of Puget Sound, at the next Sourdough Speaker Series event on April 25 at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake. In addition to Andrea’s engaging presentation, you’ll enjoy comfortable overnight accommodations, healthful gourmet food, naturalist-led outdoor activities and the incomparable scenery of the North Cascades — all for only $95 per person. I’ll be assisting Andrea, showing slides of some of my favorite 19th century American landscape painters who traveled to wilderness areas and set the stage for the accomplishments of Abby Hill. It’s going to be a great night talking about the connections between art and conservation in the mountains!

Horshoe Basin Afternoon (pictured above) is one of her finer canvases from this expedition. It and others were exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. Even the miners working in Horseshoe Basin admired her work. She recorded the comments of one:  “That’s the real stuff, boys!”  At the time, miners had no name for Mt. Booker, and Abby Hill was given the privilege of naming it for the Geologic Survey–she chose Mt. Booker, in honor of Booker T. Washington.  She wrote that “his influence like the streams from the mountain, will go on through the ages to bless and help mankind.”
AWH in Yellowstone
Abby Hill also painted at Yellowstone National Park. She is pictured here standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  One afternoon while painting on the edge of the canyon a huge windstorm blew up, and she watched a canvas on which she had lavished hours of work fly off the easel and down into the depths of the canyon.  Hear the end of this amazing tale at our lecture!

Painting and photograph courtesy of the Abby Williams Hill Collection at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, Washington.

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