Art & Environment: The Paintings of Andrew P. Hill

New Museum Los Gatos (NUMU) is pleased to present Art and the Environment: The Paintings of Andrew P. Hill, an exhibition featuring works from The Charles and Peggy Bergtold Collection, the largest privately held collection of Andrew P. Hill paintings. Featured are 12 rarely displayed paintings by Andrew P. Hill depicting Santa Clara Valley landscapes and portraits of prominent San Jose citizens from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Hill’s wife, Florence Hill, Jane Stanford, Julia Farney, and the Rea family.  Other exhibition highlights include rare photographs of Hill’s San Jose photography studio before it was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, collectable books featuring Hill, and select photographs taken by Hill of the Santa Cruz redwood forests, courtesy of the Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History in San Jose.

Born August 9, 1853, Andrew Putnam Hill was a painter, photographer and leading environmentalist.  He was best known for his successful efforts to save the redwood trees from destruction in California’s Santa Cruz mountains, leading to the establishment of Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California’s oldest state park. In 1899 while on a magazine photography assignment, Hill was approached by the owner of the property who demanded he turn over his photos. He boldly told Hill that he planned to log the forest and turn the trees into railroad ties. Hill recorded his feelings of the encounter:

“…the thought flashed through my mind that these trees, because of their size and antiquity, were among the natural wonders of the world, and should be saved for posterity. I said to myself, I will start a campaign immediately to make a public park of this place.” – Andrew P. Hill, on saving the redwoods.

Hill would go on to fight against the destruction of Northern California’s redwood forests. He organized groups from Stanford University, Santa Clara University, and mobilized scientists and local activists to join him.

For two years the group lobbied California legislators to save the redwood trees from decimation and to create a public park. They raised $250,000, an enormous sum in those days to secure the land and in 1902 Big Basin Redwoods State Park was opened.  In addition to taking hundreds of photographs of the redwood trees surrounding Santa Clara Valley, Hill was also an avid painter of the natural beauty that he fought so hard to save.

The Charles and Peggy Bergtold Collection

As a longtime resident of Los Gatos, Charles Bergtold grew up in a time when there were still vast orchards throughout the Santa Clara Valley. His interest in the history of the valley extended to exploring local historic sites, abandoned houses, and searching the area for old cars and antiques. His love of local history eventually led to a forty-year career collecting and selling antiques in Los Gatos.

Bergtold’s interest in Hill began when he read books published on the Santa Clara Valley, which included Hill’s illustrations and photographs of early ranches, vast orchards and the pioneers who settled in the area.  After reading Grand and Ancient Forest, by Carolyn de Vries about Andrew P. Hill, Bergtold was inspired to include as many Hill works as he could find in his art collection.

Peggy Conaway Bergtold is a former Los Gatos Library director and leading Los Gatos historian. She has written five books on the history and people of Los Gatos and received the Pat O’ Laughlin Contribution to Literature Award. She writes a Los Gatos history column for the Los Gatos Weekly, a publication of the Bay Area News Group.

Art & Environment: The Paintings of Andrew P. Hill is supported in part by The Charles and Peggy Bergtold Collection. Selected photos are provided by the Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History in San Jose, CA.

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