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Italian Roses

William H. Hilliard (American, 1836-1905)

Hilliard was a versatile painter of portraits, landscapes, still lifes and animals.

The slightly unbalanced, casual arrangement of the flowers suggests Hilliard was aware of Japanese design.

Hilliard came to Madison, Indiana from Auburn, New York at age twenty.  He arrived in Indianapolis ten years later and then went to Boston and Europe.


William Henry Hilliard

Italian Roses, about 1871-1876

oil on canvas

25 x 25 in.

Gift of Carl B. Shafer

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William Henry Hilliard was born in Auburn, New York.  He moved to Madison, Indiana and ten years later to Indianapolis. Before arriving in Indiana, Hilliard was a sailor, a landscape painter in the West, and an art student in Chicago, where he lost all of his work in the Great fire of 1871. Hilliard left Indiana after 1876 and studied and worked in Europe, primarily England, Scotland and France. Hilliard was known for his New England landscapes and coastal scenes, which resemble the Hudson River School in their romantic realism. Sometime after returning to New York from Europe Hilliard added floral subjects to his landscape work. Hilliard ultimately settled in Washington, D. C.   

This small painting of roses is among the most sophisticated works produced in Indiana during the early 1870s.  It displays Hilliard’s fluid brushwork and his subtle control of the contrast of light and dark tonalities.  The slightly unbalanced, casual arrangement of the flowers suggests Hilliard was aware of Japanese design.  Japanese art played a significant role in late nineteenth-century European and American painting.


William H. Gerdts. Art Across America, The South and Midwest: Two Centuries of Regional Painting 1710-1920, New York: Abbeville Press, 1990. ASIN: B000VACR7S

Object Information

William H. Hilliard (American, 1836-1905)
creation date
about 1887
oil on canvas
22 x 15 in. (canvas)
27-1/2 x 20-1/2 x 2-1/4 in. (framed)
mark descriptions
Inscribed and signed, l.r.: Italien [sic.] Roses / W.H. Hilliard.
accession number
credit line
Gift of Carl B. Shafer
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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