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 Carl Gibson (Collington) Hill  (1911 - 1943)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey      Known for: watercolor painting-labor genre, portraits, city scenes, lithography

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Newsboy
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Carl G. Hill was born Collington Gibson Hill around 1911 in Trinidad.  He immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York in 1929, settling in Harlem and later moving to Brooklyn.  He became a U.S. citizen in 1941 at age 30.  

Mr. Hill started painting in 1929 and studied at the National Academy of Design in New York and at the WPA Harlem Community Art Center.  He worked primarily in water color, but studied lithography* under Reva Helfond and also produced prints.  His subjects were varied, and included New York scenes of workers and waterfronts, as well as portraits and scenes from New Jersey and suburban New York.  

In World War II, Carl Hill served in the United States Merchant Marine, and was a crewman aboard the troop transport U.S.A.T. Dorchester the night of February 3, 1943.  That night the Dorchester was attacked by a German submarine near Greenland and was sunk.  Mr. Hill was one of 675 men who perished in that attack.  

During the war, five annual art exhibitions of Merchant Seamen paintings were organized and administered by Isabel Peterson at the request of the United States government.  The exhibitions traveled to 53 cities throughout the nation.  The first exhibition opened February 1, 1943 at the Hall of Art in New York  and included 26 of Mr. Hill’s paintings and lithographs.  Mr. Hill was lost at sea two days after the exhibition opened.  Mrs. Peterson had reported in her archives that Carl Hill was a “great watercolorist,” and New York World Telegram of February 6, 1943 reported that Carl G. Hill’s watercolors were “both vigorous in design and moving in content”.

At the second exhibition, which opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. on November 28, 1943, a memorial section was dedicated to Carl G. Hill and included five of his watercolors, the medium he most favored.  The New York Age, an African-American newspaper, in commenting on the exhibition wrote,

    “America lost a promising painter when Carl G. Hill, merchant seaman, disappeared at sea when his ship was torpedoed last year, but another opportunity to see his works will be afforded the public at the second annual art exhibition by merchant seamen of the United Nations which opened under the auspices of the United Seamen’s Service and the War Shipping Administration at the Grand Central Art Galleries, 13 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York City, on Tuesday."  

As a comment on the segregated military of the time, that article went on to state “

“…He chose service in the American Merchant Marine partly because there is no discrimination or jimcrowism among seamen, who know that Nazi torpedoes do not discriminate.”

Mr. Hill’s 1938 lithograph, Newsboy, was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art January 15-May 4, 2003 in their exhibit entitled, “African-American Artists, 1929-1945: Prints, Drawings, and Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”  His Study for a Mural on Theater Proscenium, a watercolor and ink, 1937, is at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and his Night Workers lithograph was exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair.  He also reportedly illustrated a book on the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and painted a mural at the Colored Orphan Asylum in Riverdale, N.Y.

SOURCES:

Mr. Hill’s U.S. Naturalization Record, his record of arrival in New York aboard the ship Pan America 8 May, 1929, and his 1930 United States Federal Census record were obtained by the Morris County (NJ) Library from the website AncestryLibrary.com.  

A copy of Mr. Hill’s Naturalization Certificate is recorded in the “Index to the Naturalization Petitions of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 1865-1957".

Facts about the transport ship Dorchester and its crew are from The United States Merchant Marine (www.usmm.org) and www.uboat.net.

Information about the Merchant Seamen art exhibitions during World War II was obtained from the Isabel Peterson archives on microfilm at the Smithsonian Institution entitled “Isabel Peterson papers, 1942-1980”.

The New York Age newspaper printed articles about Mr. Hill on November 27, 1943 and on February 8, 1944.

The New York Times, in an article entitled “79 Pieces of Art by Seamen Shown” dated Jan. 19, 1944 included remarks about the Carl Hill memorial.

The Seattle Times, February 2, 2003 had an Associated Press article entitled “Black artists’ WPA works depict depths of Depression” with comments about Carl Hill’s “Newsboy”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition catalogue African-American Artists, 1929-1945, Prints, Drawings, and Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Lisa Mintz Messinger, Lisa Gail Collins, and Rachel Mustalish, Yale University Press, 2003, records information about Mr. Hill and “Newsboy” on page 63.  The exhibition was January 15-May 4, 2003.  

The exhibition catalogue Alone in a Crowd – Prints of the 1930s-40s by African American Artists from the Collection of Reba and Dave Williams records information about Mr. Hill on page 48.


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