ENTREPRENEUR KENNETH HILL DECORATED HIS HOMES WITH MAGNIFICENT MARITIME PAINTINGS
With the acquisition of masterpieces by artists such as Montague Dawson and Franz Richard Unterberger, Fort Worth entrepreneur Kenneth Hill turned his love of the water into a lifetime of collecting.
● FINE EUROPEAN ART SIGNATURE® AUCTION 8047
Featuring Property from the Estate of
Kenneth Alan Hill Sr.
June 4, 2021
● DECORATIVE ART SIGNATURE® AUCTION 8046
Featuring Property from the Estate of
Kenneth Alan Hill Sr.
June 22, 2021
Hill was born in Cisco, Texas, to a third-generation ranching family and was a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He spent more than 35 years pioneering software and services for the pharmaceutical industry. His homes in Fort Worth and Miami were adorned with antique furnishings and marine-style paintings that he collected over the years.
Hill brought the sea to his palatial Fort Worth estate – outfitting his great room with various antique ship models. Perfect complements to his models were the equally magnificent paintings he acquired over the years, including Montague Dawson’s oil on canvas Night Suspect.
“Hill’s astute collector’s eye pursued objects rarely seen outside of institutions,” says Michelle Castro, director of Trusts & Estates at Heritage Auctions. “His taste was impeccable and now his collection is ready for an entirely new generation of connoisseurs.”
The son of a sea captain, Montague Dawson served in the Royal Navy in World War I and was an official war artist for a British newspaper during World War II. The piece in Hill’s collection depicts a dramatic chase by the British Coast Guard, firing a canon at suspected smugglers in the English Channel.
Compositions featuring a shipboard perspective are rare and there are fewer than six known Dawson works that display such a precise view of action on deck. Additionally, none of these other deck scenes are of a ship engaged in a pursuit, firing cannons. Through this captivating choice of perspective, Dawson draws attention not only to the harsh realities of life on the water, but also to the power and often dangerous beauty of the wide-open ocean.
This seminal work by Dawson was an obvious choice by the artist for display at the 1958 Royal Society of Marine Painters’ London Guildhall. A precisionist in every way, Dawson would interview officers and crew, some of whom provided their own sketches and notes from which he would recreate an accurate visual account. The artist would pour over a work, from sketches, models and preliminary paintings to finally arrive at one of his masterpieces.
In additional to this fine work, Heritage is offering two other Montague Dawson maritime paintings from the Estate of Ken Hill in its June 4 European Art auction.
Felix Ziem’s painting Gondaliers at Esclavons Quay offers a much more serene interpretation of life on the water. The French artist made a specialty of Venetian scenes which he painted en plein air, often renting a gondola and anchoring it in a canal. Compared to his contemporaries, Ziem’s style was much freer, brushy and atmospheric, seeking to capture the flickering interplay of light and breeze on the water and its dazzling reflections on the architecture of the floating city.
Gondaliers at Esclavons Quay is a moody interpretation of the day’s end, depicting a gondola loaded with evening passengers. Deep shadows in the night water contrast with the luminescent glow of the final daylight hours over the architectural majesty of the Ducal Palace and the domes of the Church of Santa Maria della Salute in the distance. Ziem captured the grandeur of a summer sunset on the Venetian Lagoon as viewed near the Esclavons landing – a dramatic vantage point also favored by other noted Venetian vedute painters, including Franz Richard Unterberger.
Italy during the late 19th century was abuzz with foreign visitors; tourists and expatriates, alike. Capitalizing on this fervor, artists captured everyday scenes of the city for well-heeled travelers to return home from their Grand Tour with a grand souvenir. Franz Richard Unterberger’s best-known works are colorful views of Venice and Naples, painted in a romantic haze that gives them a lively and vibrant air. To capitalize on the market for these works, Unterberger almost exclusively painted scenes from Italy from 1890 until his death in 1902.
Breathtaking examples of decorative art from the Hill estate, to be presented June 18, range from a 20-piece St. Louis Excellence Pattern Stemware Service (estimate $3,000-$5,000) and a stunning 202-piece Versace for Rosenthal Porcelain Les Trésors De La Mer Pattern Dinner Service for 12, designed 1996 (estimate $5,000-$7,000).
Kenneth Alan Hill Sr. was a man who let his passions dictate what he collected. He passed away on Nov. 23, 2020. He obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmacy in December 1971. While attending the University of Texas in the late 1960s, Hill was introduced to the concept that all pharmacies would soon be controlled by computer systems. By 1978, Hill was one of only 3% of U.S. pharmacists who had adopted the new technology for his pharmacy.
His pharmacy in Granbury, Texas, became a meeting place for locals to conversate. Hill would serve on the city council before becoming mayor of Granbury while also consulting for the local hospital and local nursing homes. Serving a community of people and recognizing the role pharmacists play in the lives of patients would remain a stead-fast driver for Hill both personally and professionally.
“Ken Hill was truly one of a kind,” EHR Data Inc., a company Hill founded, said upon his passing in 2020. “His greatest gift to those who loved and cherished him was his time and presence. What a generous man he was. Generosity was part of his DNA, and although he had many passions, people were most cherished by him. He came from humble beginnings and learned the virtues of discipline, hard work and true-grit early and most importantly, to always pay good forward.”
This article appears in the June 2021 digital edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine.