Painter. Known particularly for grandiose landscapes of the American West, particularly the Yosemite area, he also painted more intimate forest scenes. In addition, he produced New England scenes, portraits, genre works, and still lifes. His light-filled, freshly observed oil studies, which he often sold as finished works, helped to popularize outdoor painting in California. Hill was born in Birmingham, England. In 1844 he emigrated to Taunton, Massachusetts, with his family, including his brother, Edward Hill (1843–1923), who later specialized in painting New Hampshire's White Mountain scenery. (He died in Hood River, Oregon, after moving west in later years.) Both brothers initially trained as artisans, painting coaches, furniture, and interiors. As a young man in Boston, Thomas came to admire Hudson River School painting. In 1853 he moved to Philadelphia, where he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and achieved some recognition as a portrait and still life painter. After two years, he returned to Massachusetts but left in 1861 for San Francisco. Recent views by Carleton Watkins and Albert Bierstadt probably motivated his subsequent visits to the Yosemite Valley. In 1866 Hill departed for Paris, where he encountered Barbizon landscape painting. Returning the following year with a richer and more painterly technique, he settled in Boston. There he generated regional views but also used earlier sketches to paint ambitious depictions of the West. Great Canyon of the Sierras—Yosemite (Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California, 1871), a 6 × 10-foot panoramic vista features detailed rocks and vegetation leading into an imposing vastness bathed in warm, slightly hazy light. Following another California sojourn of some months, in the fall of 1872 he moved there permanently. He later journeyed east several times to paint in New England and also ranged through other areas of the western United States, as well as to Alaska and Mexico. In the 1870s he numbered among leading figures in San Francisco's art community. Later he often worked for extended periods in the southern part of the state, while also maintaining ties to Yosemite. In the mid-1880s he established a summer studio at Wawona, near what became the southern entrance to the park when the area was put under federal protection in 1890. There he turned out somewhat formulaic views of Yosemite's rugged rock formations and waterfalls, varied by shifts in point of view and in the activities of diminutive figures that typically enliven his landscapes. Consistently true to the majestic features of the area, these paintings employ a loosening brushstroke but remain grounded in observation of light, atmosphere, and foreground detail. He often wintered in the San Joaquin Valley town of Raymond, where he died after a decade of reduced activity caused by ill health. His sons Edward Rufus Hill (1852–1908) and Thomas Virgil Troyon Hill (1871–1922) also worked as painters.