This work by Thomas Hill, commonly referred to as Waterfall, emphasizes the height of the trees, the rugged steeps of the mountains, and serene waters cascading into a brook. The man near the center of the painting demonstrates the relative magnitude of nature. The lower forest’s dark shadows draw the eye up to the light at the top of the painting where the viewer sees snowy mountain caps. The sunlight in the center of the painting gives a depth of perception and contrasts the dark forestry. Hill layers green and brown paint strokes in the leaves and over the trees for texture, and he adds delicate hints of white on the flowers to give the appearance of new growth blooming near the water.
Hill became one of California’s most successful landscape artists and was a transitional figure in American landscape painting. He synthesized the influences of the Hudson River and Barbizon Schools of art into a style that was completely his own. He would go on to paint stunning representations of Yellowstone, the Russian River, Lake Tahoe, and most notably the Yosemite Valley.