John Hilton
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 Although best known as a landscape painter of the American Southwest, John Hilton was a man of multiple talents.  Hilton was also a naturalist whose work on desert subjects was incorporated in numerous museum publications, a biologist and botanist whose discoveries led to the naming of species of crabs, ticks, snakes, turtles and cacti in his name, a jewelry designer for the Hollywood elite in the Roaring Twenties, a gemologist of international repute, a southern California desert guide for General Patton, a miner and prospector,  the author of several books and a musician whose musical talents allowed him to make a living while he honed his artistic skills.  Yet for all of these accomplishments he is still best known for his visual interpretations of the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts.

 Hilton’s love of the desert was expressed in both his writings and paintings.  In an essay which appeared in the March 1960 edition of Arizona Highways, Hilton says of the Sonoran Desert “This is my desert!  It extends through Arizona, southern California, Nevada, southern Utah, New Mexico and northern Mexico states of Sonora, Chihuaha, Sinaloa and Baja California. . . . It is a land of peace, silence and boundless skies …It is as if nature herself set aside these vast areas …so that thinking men might have a place where the go to regain their perspective and find themselves and their true meaning.”    He went on to state that if he was able to share at least a portion of his feelings for his desert, then he would have accomplished what he “set out to do”. 

 This Renaissance man of the desert was born on September 9, 1904 in a sod shack near Carrington, North Dakota.  His mother was a North Dakota farm girl and his father was a baker who decided when John was four years old to become a missionary.  The family set sail for China and arrived in time to witness the Sun Yat Sen revolution.  Hilton later claimed that by the time he was ten he met Chinese bandits and philosophers, traveled the length of the Great Wall of China, crossed the Pacific Ocean four times and visited forty states, Japan, Canada, and Mexico.   


 These early experiences during his formative years helped to create a wanderlust and sense of adventure that never deserted him. Another incident took place shortly after the family’s arrival in China that would have a lasting influence on his life.  Hilton recalled that an elderly Chinese man, who served as the gatekeeper to the Hilton’s residence, remarked to Hilton’s father that John was “one of the old ones.” 

 The gatekeeper went on to explain that young John had lived on earth before and had returned “with much wisdom”.  Obviously the concept of reincarnation was deeply disturbing to Hilton’s devout Christian parents.  They asked the gatekeeper not to bring up the subject again.  Exactly how impressionable the gatekeeper’s observations were on young John is not known.  But throughout Hilton’s life he maintained a fascination with the occult as well as a deep seated belief that he had led several past lives.





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John Hilton Palo Verde
John Hilton 1939
John Hilton prospecting for gems in the Mojave Desert 1939

We are always interested in purchasing or accepting on consignment work by John Hilton. 

Please contact us with any inquiries.

John Hilton Grand Canyon at Dusk
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