Two vastly different cities with a shared name shaped Hattie Hutchcraft Hill’s life and art. A native of Paris, Kentucky—the seat of Bourbon County situated amid the commonwealth’s bluegrass countryside—Hill would spend the majority of her life in the surrounding area. The French capital of Paris was Hill’s other home and creative wellspring, the place where her painting career was sparked, matured, and flourished.

According to one source, Hill studied in Cincinnati, New York, and Boston, although details are indeterminate. It can be verified that she attended Daughter’s College in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. After graduating around 1865, she married William A. Hill—a union cut short by William’s death just five years later. Afterwards, Hill worked as a teacher in Paris and nearby Georgetown, Kentucky. At the age of thirty-one, “Hattie” (as she was known) and her sister went to Paris, France, where they attended the 1878 Exposition Universelle. Like thousands of other visitors to the fair, Hill saw the mammoth head of the Statue of Liberty designed by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. This trip inspired her to pursue a career as an artist.

Back in the United States, Hill returned to the classroom, where she led courses in arts and crafts, a subject which emphasized such decorative arts as china painting and was popular with young women at that time. She returned to France in 1888 to study at the Académie Julian with Benjamin Constant and Jules Lefebvre, an endeavor underwritten by an inheritance following her parents’ deaths. During her five years in Paris, she befriended the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt and painted her portrait (location unknown). She also traveled to Brittany, visiting the noted horse painter Rosa Bonheur at her château near Fontainebleau. Hill’s work was accepted twice for exhibit at the prestigious Paris Salon. In 1895, she returned to the United States and spent two years working in Los Angeles as a portrait painter and art instructor. Three years later, in strained financial circumstances, she returned to her birthplace.

One of Hill’s greatest accomplishments was a large-scale commissioned portrait of Judge William Garth, a philanthropist with a keen interest in fostering the education of local students. Executed in France and shipped to Kentucky, the nearly seven-foot-tall canvas was displayed in the Kentucky Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago before being permanently installed in the Bourbon County Courthouse. Hill painted portraits of other area dignitaries, as well as landscapes and still lifes. She regularly signed her work as “H. Hutchcraft” or “H. Hill,” perhaps in an attempt to conceal her gender. Sadly, Hattie Hill became an invalid around 1900 and lived with family in Paris, Kentucky, until her death in 1921.