Empire Mine, mining road along a steep mountainside, signed and dated lower left: T. Hill 1886, oil on canvas laid to panel, 32'' H x 51'' W, est: $30,000/50,000
Note: The Empire Mine is the site of the oldest, largest, and richest gold mine in California. From 1850 to its closing 106 years later in 1956, it produced 5.8 million ounces of gold. Some of the most productive years were under the direction of California State Senator Thomas Fowler of Visalia who purchased the mine in 1878 and formed the Empire Gold and Silver Mining Company. Fowler oversaw an intense period of construction of the mine and poured most of his personal fortune into the endeavor. A 2 mile cable tram was built to carry ore down from Empire Mountain to a new mill 2,000 feet below; ''[i]n the Spring of 1879, Fowler organized the Mineral King Wagon and Toll Road Company to complete the remaining 25 miles of road from the bridge across the East Fork of the Kaweah River...to Mineral King'' (J.G. Moore, ''Exploring the Highest Sierra'', Stanford, CA, p. 268). By August 15, 1879, wagons entered the Mineral King Valley for the first time. Just a few years later in 1886, Thomas Hill was there to paint the present work. Hill had begun painting Yosemite and Sierra landscapes in the 1860s and his paintings of these subjects were hugely popular and commanded high prices by the 1880s. The present work shows the entrance to Empire Mine cut into the side of a steep mountain at the left of a sweeping mountainscape painted in the artist's signature naturalistic tones. Provenance: Estate, Las Vegas, NV
Visual: Generally good condition. Areas of paint shrinkage in some of the brown pigments of the rocks and trees left center. A small fleck of paint loss upper center. Minor frame abrasion. The tacking edges were removed when lined. Blacklight: A 3.5'' x 5'' 'L'-shaped area of touch-up left center. Touch-up throughout the sky and mountains. Difficult to read under varnish.