|John W. Hilton |
|click image to enlarge|
"Near La Quinta"
Oil on canvas
24 x 30 inches
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Born on September 9, 1904, in Carrington, North Dakota, John Hilton is known for desert landscape painting, as well as scenes with cowboys, horses, and cattle. In addition, he was a poet, musician, geologist, miner, and entertainer.
Hilton's father was a baker, and the family lived in a shack on a farm. When he was four, his father became a missionary, and the family moved to China. Hilton later claimed that by the age of 10, he had met Chinese bandits, philosophers, and walked along the Great Wall--all of which inspired his later wanderlust and sense of adventure. The family was separated during the Sun Yat Sen revolution, and thinking the father was dead, the mother returned to North Dakota where the father eventually found them. The family spent some time in the Midwest before moving to Los Angeles in 1918.
Hilton studied at La Verne College and spent his summers working for the Golden State Gem Company. He accepted when the company offered him full time employment. Hilton found great success selling gems and jewelry to Hollywood clients, and was devastated when the company folded during the Great Depression.
In the 1930s, financially broke, he moved to the desert determined to become a painter. He supported himself, his wife, and young child as a singer and guitar player. He later operated a curio shop near Indio, California, and from that time lived either in the desert or at Twenty-Nine Palms.
Sketching trips with Maynard Dixon, Nicolai Fechin, Jimmy Swinnerton, Orpha Klinker, and Clyde Forsythe influenced his style. It was on one of these trips that Hilton was convinced to give up his paint brushes and only paint with palette knives. He combined a beeswax mixture with his paints, after reading about ancient Egyptian practices and the subsequent enduring quality of the culture's art objects, that gave his landscapes a special lustre. He wrote and illustrated several books including Sonora Sketch Book, 1947, and Hilton Paints the Desert in 1964. His illustrations appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Saturday Evening Post.
He was highly successful financially and was elected to the Grand Central Galleries in New York where he had numerous solo exhibitions as well as in California. Hilton also painted many landscapes of Hawaii at Lahaina, Maui, where he had a summer home and eventually where he died on November 27, 1983.
Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2 vols. Print.
Samuels,Peggy and Harold. Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Print.