John William Hilton
John William Hilton was an adventurer and artist known for his plein air desert landscapes. He ran a gem and curio shop in the California desert, where he was first inspired to paint. Living near Palm Springs, Hilton was particularly adept at capturing western light. Death Valley in the Mojave Desert was one of his favorite places and the setting for a number of his paintings.
Hilton also was an illustrator, poet, musician, geologist and miner. His mining discovery of a common crystal called “optical calcite” was used in World War II in the making of highly accurate sights for allied bombers’ guns. Hilton was friends with luminaries, including noted artists, generals and actors. He presented a desert painting to his friend, President Dwight Eisenhower, who hung it in the Oval Office. Hilton’s parents were missionaries, and he spent his formative years in China. Though he did not follow in their footsteps as they wished, his creation of a desert mountain work stirred his father to say, “Son, that is a sermon in paint.” Hilton died in 1983