Jerome Hill was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on March 2, 1905.
He was born into the family of Louis W. Hill, one of the prominent
families of Saint Paul and heirs to the railroad fortune of James
J. Hill, the famed "Empire Builder." Hill's father and
grandfather maintained large collections of artwork from contemporary
and classic European painters, such as Corot, Rousseau and Delacroix,
and Hill was fascinated and inspired by these paintings to begin
painting and drawing from an early age. Hill's childhood home, at
260 Summit Avenue, was next door to his grandfather's
Hill grew up in Saint Paul, attending the Saint Paul Academy, and then Yale College. Upon graduation in 1927 with a degree in Music, Hill traveled to Europe and began studies in painting. On trips with family and friends in Europe, Hill experimented with still photography and with early motion picture cameras.
the late 1920s, while painting landscapes in the south of France, Hill
discovered a piece of property in Cassis, a scenic port town on the Mediterranean
Sea. Hill purchased the property and began sharing his time between Cassis
and Paris in 1930. Although Hill also maintained a residence in Norden,
California, and lived in New York City for long stretches, Cassis would
remain his physical and spiritual home for the majority of his life.
Hill also maintained a residence in Norden, California, at the ski resort called "Sugar
Bowl." Hill's interest in skiing led to his first major documentary film, "Snow Flight," which
was filmed at Mount Rainier in Washington and distributed by Warner Brothers.
Hill painted and made short films throughout the 1930s, and continued to do so until he
joined the military in World War II. While in the Army, he served in multiple capacities: he
scripted training films, worked in aerial photography and surveillance groups, and used his
language skills as part of the Prisoner of War Interrogation units. After his service, he
returned to his property in Cassis, which had suffered only minor damage under German
occupation. Hill spent the rest of the 1940s painting and traveling, before restarting his
filmmaking career in 1949 with his documentary on the American painter Grandma Moses.
The film was released in 1950 to wide acclaim. It also marked the beginning of Hill's
professional collaborations with Erica Anderson, who played a critical role in the making of
Hill's next major film, "Albert Schweitzer." The film won an Academy Award for best
Documentary Feature of 1957. Hill also collaborated with Schweitzer on a series of pipe
organ performances of Bach compositions, recorded at a church in Schweitzer's hometown of
Gunsbach, Switzerland. These were captured in Hill's film "Schweitzer and Bach."
During the 1950s, Hill also found time to begin a series of performing arts festivals in
Cassis, France. These festivals offered exposure to a wide variety of European theatre
professionals and Musicians, many of whom Hill helped support financially.
in the 1960s, Hill made two feature films: "The Sand Castle," a Jungian
allegory; and "Open the Door and See all the People," a farcical comedy.
For both of these films, Hill took complete control, acting as producer,
writer and director. The 1960s also marked Hill's most prolific period
of painting, with at least 300 canvases finished in that decade.
Hill took time in the 1960s and early 1970s to formalize his longtime
support of artists by creating foundations to provide grants. The
Avon Foundation (now known as the Jerome Foundation) and the Camargo
Foundation continue to support artists, scholars, and non-profit
arts organizations to the present day.
Hill died in November 1972, shortly after completing his cinematic memoir,