Hills, Laura Coombs – American Artist

Laura Coombs Hills (1859-1952)

Laura Coombs Hills was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1859. She was mostly self taught, but did study briefly at the Cowles Art School in Boston and the New York Art Students League as a pupil of Helen M. Knowlton. None of this training was for miniature painting yet it is miniature painting for which she is most noted. Her first exhibit, for “Seven Pretty Girls at Newburyport”, “The Bride”, and others helped to establish Hills as a most skillful miniature painter and she was rewarded with many commissions. Her painting, “The Black Hat”, is what many consider her masterpiece. It is owned by the Metropolitan Museum in New York. She was also known for larger works, mostly floral still life’s in pastel or watercolor. She did illustrations for Louis Prang and Company in the 1880′s, designing valentines and other cards.

After spending many years painting landscapes, portrait miniatures, and illustrations, by 1920 Hills had turned her artistic focus to creating pastel floral still lifes. Lizzie Hills, the artist’s sister, tended the gardens of Laura’s Newburyport home ‘The Goldfish’, where each morning they would cut and arrange flowers to be placed before an oftentimes textile backdrop, selected from Hills’ extensive collection of tapestries and scarves purchased during her many trips overseas. Her works from this period were received with such great enthusiasm that she was granted several solo exhibitions at venues such as the Copley Gallery, Doll & Richards Gallery, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Guild of Boston Artists. It was also during this time that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, purchased several of Hill’s works.

She won numerous awards during her lifetime and was the first painter of miniatures elected to the Society of American Artists. In 1906 she was elected an associate of the National Academy of Design. Hills work can be found in many important museums and both public and private collections. Laura Hills passed away in Massachusetts in 1952.

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