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Laura Coombs Hills began her art education under the influence of William Morris Hunt and his student Helen Knowlton, who had continued his classes after his death in 1879. Hills’s earliest known works are anonymous landscapes of the marshes and dunes near her native Newburyport, loosely rendered after the manner of her teachers with special attention given to light and atmosphere. In 1893, during a trip to England, she first saw modern artists making miniatures in watercolor on ivory, a medium that had been popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The technique, used mostly for intimate and transportable portraits of family, had all but disappeared after the invention of photography in 1839. Like many handcrafts that had almost vanished with the industrial age, it was revived during the late 19th century. Hills, who had always enjoyed making tiny drawings and decorations, became fascinated with miniature painting and was one of the leaders in the art’s rebirth in the United States.
...Hills made figure compositions like The Nymph for exhibition and display. They were immensely popular and sold very well, enabling her to build her own house and studio in Newburyport. They also inspired many Bostonians to commission portrait miniatures from Hills. She made over 300 miniatures during her career, although after 1910 she began to earn even more acclaim for her delicate pastel still lifes of flowers. Hills was one of Boston’s most popular painters and she held annual exhibitions of her work until she was 88 years old.
Laura Coombs Hills (1859–1952); American artist and illustrator who specialized in watercolor and pastel still life paintings, especially of flowers, and miniature portrait paintings on ivory. She became the first miniature painter elected to the Society of American Artists, and she was ...