Announcing the Archive of Visual Artist Clinton Hill

August 26, 2019
D. Vanessa Kam
Untitled, watercolor on paper, 1997.

The Bowes Art & Architecture Library and the Department of Special Collections, Stanford Libraries, are pleased to announce the acquisition of the archive of visual artist Clinton Hill (1922–2003). 

Hill, whose formative years as an artist took place largely in New York in the 1950s and 1960s during the heyday of abstract expressionism, created an extensive and varied body of work.  His paintings, mixed-media works on paper, assemblages, sculptures, and prints embodied a variety of styles making his work somewhat difficult to categorize.  What is evident, however, are indelible links to abstraction, minimalism, and constructivism.  His strength as a colorist, the lyricism of his geometric lines, and his boundless appetite for experimentation with materials and process are some of the defining elements of his oeuvre. 

Hill was raised on a ranch in Payette, Idaho.  His training as an artist began in Oregon in the 1940s, continued in Italy and France in the 1950s, and ended at the Brooklyn Museum Art School in New York (1949–1951).  In New York, his teachers included German expressionist painter Max Beckmann and John Ferren, a founding member of The Club, a group formed by Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s.  In New York, Hill participated in group exhibitions at the Korman Gallery, showing alongside artists like Alex Katz and Vincent Longo, and held his first solo show at the Zabriskie Gallery in 1955.  In the 1960s through the 1980s, he taught art at the City University of New York.  Hill’s contemporaries and friends included Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Helen Frankenthaler, Man Ray, and Robert Motherwell, among others.

In the 1970s, Hill traveled to Woodstock Valley, Connecticut to take part in John and Kathyrn Koller’s experimental paper workshop. This event proved transformative for Hill’s work as he began to incorporate handmade paper and paper pulp into his art practice, and to explore the myriad of ways that paper could be manipulated (dying, tearing, cutting, embossing, etc).   By using paper pulp and other materials such as fiberglass, string, wood, and plastics, Hill’s artworks came to resemble relief paintings with strong sculptural qualities that pushed the limits of two-dimensional expressions.

Untitled, work on handmade paper, 1975

Hill’s works can be found in the permanent collections of numerous museums/galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum (New York), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles), Baltimore Museum of Art, Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth), and others.

The Clinton Hill archive contains dozens of artworks on paper, including prints, sketchbooks, paintings, and drawings.  Correspondence with artists such as Vincent Longo, Leo Rabkin, Sideo Fromboluti, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Tom Doyle, and Beat Generation writer Jay De Feo is also included.  Business papers, photographs, ephemera, slides, maquettes, books from the artist’s library, and documentation of Hill’s career as an opera singer round out the rest of the archive.

The collection is being processed, and a finding aid (a detailed guide to the contents of the archive) will be forthcoming. 

The Clinton Hill archive is a generous gift to the Libraries of the Clinton Hill/Allen Tran Foundation, dedicated to the work and artistic vision of Clinton Hill. 

Legend of India, 1958.  Woodblock print. 

Artworks from the Clinton Hill archive, from top to bottom:  Untitled, watercolor on paper, 1997; Untitled, work on handmade paper, 1975; Legend of India, woodcut print, 1958. All images courtesy of the Clinton Hill/Allen Tran Foundation. 

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