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Hill, Jerome

American, 1905 - 1972

Hill, James Jerome


The grandson of St. Paul, Minnesota, railroad magnate and art collector James J. Hill, and son of Louis W. Hill, Sr., Jerome Hill's interest in the arts developed early. He frequently entertained family friends with his quick, skillful sketches. His father took Jerome and his brothers and sister out of school for two months every year and brought them to the Far West, where they were instructed by tutors; but Jerome admitted that "I never got good marks, I just wanted to get by, so that I could do what I really wanted to do, which was to paint or write...." While knowledge of the arts was valued in his family, the pursuit of a career in art did not meet with approval. As a high school student and self-taught artist, Jerome created mural paintings on the walls of the chemistry laboratory depicting great scientists in their historical contexts. Soon afterward, he began a ten-year project, the development of a time-chart of the arts, comprising historical figures who had influenced world art from the 5th century B.C. to the late 1920's. While it demonstrated Hill's great sense of order and self-discipline, Hill modestly described this ambitious project as an aid for his "poor memory," and resisted pressure from his colleagues to publish it. Sometimes described as a "Renaissance man," Hill worked toward a degree in music (composition and orchestration) from Yale, while making drawings for the comic magazine, the Yale Record. After graduating, he went to Europe and studied drawing and painting at the British Academy in Rome. The next three years were spent in Paris studying at the Académie Scandinave under the painters Dufresne, Friesz, Gromaire, and others. He exhibited widely in Paris Salons and galleries, in New York galleries, and at other American galleries and museums. After his study in Paris, Hill went to Cassis to paint, and ended up making his residence there, designing his own house in 1930. He published a textless book of photographs in 1936 called Trip to Greece, which brought him some public acclaim and marked the beginning of an increased interest in the camera and filmmaking. His first major film, "Ski Flight," [originally titled "Snow Flight"] was released the next year by Warner Brothers. He made a documentary on American primitive painter Grandma Moses, another on Carl Jung, and won an award for his film, "Albert Schweitzer". Much of his subsequent film work, including the acclaimed "Sand Castle," drew upon Jungian ideas. In 1942, Hill was drafted and worked making training films for the army, later becoming an officer. His experiences in WWII formed a major influence on his career, reinforcing his interest in painting. Having spent much of his life in France, he was selected to be sent oversees as a French-speaking liaison officer. Hill made many drawings and watercolors on board a boat crossing the Atlantic (cameras were not allowed), in North Africa during preparations for an invasion of the continent, and in France. He later painted many views from his house in Cassis, France. Jerome Hill can also be called a collector, in a less disciplined sense than is placed on his other creative pursuits. He decided early on to collect only works by living artists, but occasionally made exceptions. He made his first purchase--a drawing by Mary Cassatt--in 1922, and continued to collect based on intuition and without a specific plan. A small number of works came to him by inheritance. [Compiled from sources and references recorded on CMS]


Lein, Malcolm E. Jerome Hill: Painter, Film Maker, Collector. Saint Paul Art Center, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1965.
"Jerome Hill, 67, Movie Producer." The New York Times (23 November 1972): 38:3.
Mekas, Jonas. "A Poet is Dead (In Memory of Jermone Hill)." New York Film Culture 56/57 (Spring 1973): 1-17.

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