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Abby Williams Hill Exhibit at Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum

Abby Williams Hill - “Burton Studio”.
Abby Williams Hill - “Burton Studio”.

In cooperation with the University of Puget Sound, Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Museum’s newest exhibit, "Abby Williams Hill: Wanderlust, Works on Paper, 1895-1927," opens on First Friday, March 2, 2012. A select collection of her drawings and sketches span three decades in time and subject - from Vashon Island, the North Cascades, Montana, and the Southwest to Germany, France, Switzerland, and Belgium.

Abby Williams Hill, her husband Dr. Frank Hill, and their young son, Romayne, left Grinnell, Iowa to move out west – all the way west to Tacoma, Washington in 1889. Through her many surviving day books and dairies she painted a picture in which she shunned the life of a doctor’s wife, finding it far more interesting to sail over to Vashon, befriend the locals, fish for her supper and enjoy the island. She loved children however, and unable to have more of her own, Hill adopted three daughters. She spent her summer months camping on Vashon where she homeschooled (or tent-schooled) her four children. The summer ritual of camping on the Island lasted long enough for Hill to buy property and even set up an art studio in Burton. There she sketched several local sights along the beaches, including native canoes and native homes.

After receiving her first in a line of four commissions, she began in earnest to create landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Her works were used to entice tourists to hop on trains, head west and explore the virgin territory, much like she had done. While Hill’s work includes over 100 canvasses of landscapes, still life, and portraits including one of Sioux chief White Bull, her sketches were sometimes the sparest of works, other times fully realized. They are not always mentioned in her day books, but Hill dated them and identified their locations, so it is possible to place them into the chronology of her work. Hill’s commissioned paintings were shown at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland as well as the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909.

In conjunction with the Abby Williams Hills exhibit, local artist, Pam Ingalls will give a talk at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 22 at the Land Trust building, entitled, Pam Ingalls: Wanderlust. Pam will address how her own travels influenced her art.

For more information, please contact the Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association: 206.463-7808.