The artist was born on 26 October 1873 in Birmingham, the only child of William J R Hill and his wife Julia. His father was employed as a lithographic artist, and had moved to Birmingham for employment from his original home in Gloucestershire. Julia had been born in Birmingham, and the couple settled there at 22 Bristol Road, Edgbaston.
He exhibited titles of Newlyn subjects at the RBSA in 1900, indicating that he had been in Cornwall prior to that year. However, family correspondence has revealed at least two paintings of Newlyn dated in 1905, so it is clear that he returned. His earliest exhibition date, as found so far, is from c1897. The 1901 Census finds Ernest living at home, age 27, with his parents, and his occupation listed as Art Master/School. Later he was to serve as a Vice President of the RBSA, and an associate of Professor Thomas Bodkin, the Founding Director of the Barber Institute at Birmingham University. His death certificate lists his occupation as Headmaster of Bournville Art School (retired).
His exhibiting dates extend to as late as 1946 from a sending-in address listed as Holmleigh, Langley Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham. His landscape and coastal subjects show that he travelled far and wide in Britain to paint - Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and other English locations. From paintings noted to date he was adept at both watercolour and oil. A painting entitled An Impressionist Landscape (oil on canvas, 1929) from its content of thorn trees re-shaped by the winds, could also be of Cornwall, and he may well have returned more than once.
Most of his exhibition work was hung in Birmingham, that famous place that was supposed to have invented 'the Newlyn school' (See p42 in Hardie 2009 'Who originally composed the Newlyn School?' from The Magazine of Art 1898). Though Hill was not one of the original Newlynites, he was clearly of the group that implied that in order to be a well-educated Birmingham artist, one must at least take a look-see at Newlyn. See BIRMINGHAM ART CIRCLE.
Hill was married to Catherine (undated marriage photo found) who survived him, and he died on 4 September, 1960 (GRO), at the age of 86. At the time of death the couple remained living on Langleys Road, Birmingham.
works and access
Works include: Primrose Court: Newlyn (1900); A Bit of Newlyn (1900); Newlyn (w/c 1901); The Harbour, Mousehole, Cornwall (w/c nd); Newlynn, Cornwall (1905); Newlynn Lighthouse (1905)
RBSA, Birmingham (61) including (2) from 1900 listed above
National Society of Art Masters
RBSA, Vice President
misc further info
Note: Further information has been forthcoming from a descendant, whose Aunt was a housekeeper for 'Ern Hill' for some years. Hill presented four paintings, three of Newlyn, in 1904 to her Mother's parents on their wedding day. These are now in the ownership of the correspondent and her cousin and may be available to WCAA files in due course.
Bednar (3rd Edition) Every Corner was a Picture
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall
Johnson & Greutzner (1975) Dictionary of British Artists
RBSA Exhibition lists, autumn 1900 pp58-63 (photocopies of final 5 pp, a total of 777 exhibits listed for sale)
The Year's Art 1902