Carl Fredrik Hill was a Swedish painter. Born the son of a mathematics professor, Hill grew up in the narrowness of the university town of Lund in southern Sweden and had to strike out his career as a landscape painter against his father’s will. After studying at the Stockholm Royal Academy of Fine Arts, he went to France. In the summer of 1874 Carl Fredrik Hill travelled to the village of Barbizon south of Paris, a Mecca for artists worldwide. Both the Barbizon School and Camille Corot had a decisive influence on him.
Hill wrote: “I have become convinced that art has no other goal than the truth, le vrai. Not the tritely naturalistic, but the true heart." He sought his subjects at different sites in France, Monitigny, Champagne and Normandy. "Ambition drives me to overexert myself and I give myself no peace" he said. Yet, Hill’s endeavors were not crowned with official success; his works were rejected when he presented them at the Paris Salon. When he had a severe psychotic attack and was hospitalized at the age of 28, his career as a landscape painter came to an untimely end. He was diagnosed with hallucinations and paranoia. Friends helped him get home to Sweden where he gained sanctuary at home after a short period in the St Lars mental hospital in Lund. There he was cared for by his mother and a sister for 28 years until his death in 1911. In the Lund Register of Deaths in 1911, he is listed as a "former landscape painter".
During the 28 years before his death Hill's creative work entered a new phase. As the Swedish art historian Ragnar Josephson calls it “the second great period of his life as a painter”. His artistry continued unabated; during these years he drew four drawings a day. The motifs for Hill's drawings in this period came from imagination and memory as well as from older art and illustrations. To Carl Fredrik Hill drawing was a way to take control of the new world which had now succeeded the old one. On the paper he created a world of his own. Drawing became a way to distract the evil forces that surrounded him constantly. He defended himself, using a pencil as his weapon. "The prince of whispers ... where the world glows in a blood-red struggle" writes Gunnar Ekelöf in a poem to Hill.
Carl Fredrik Hill produced thousands of drawings in various techniques: crayon, pencil, ink, India ink and watercolour. Many have been lost. Some 3.500 drawings are still thought to exist, of which more than 2.600 are part of the collections of the Malmö Art Museum, as are 23 of his oil paintings. Hill's varied subjects and styles over this period seem to have anticipated many modern movements and artists unknown to him, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso among them.
Carl Fredrik Hill’s drawings were discovered and admired by artists mainly. Thanks to the Swedish collector Rolf de Maré, Hill’s work become known in connection with the French avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1949, a hundred years after Hill's birth, a travelling exhibition was shown in London, Luzern, Basel, Geneva and Hamburg. The exhibition was a success and in 1952 the Tessin Institute in Paris published a book about Hill. Since then several works about Hill have appeared in Sweden, and Hill exhibitions succeed one another both in Sweden and abroad. Hill is now reckoned as one of Sweden's most important landscape painters, and the drawings done dúring the time he was ill in Lund have made him known outside Sweden as well.