John William Hill was born in London in 1812, the son of engraver John Hill. His family followed his father to Philadelphia in 1819 and then moved four years later to New York, where he was apprenticed to his father for the next seven years. Hill served as a topographical artist for the New York State Geological Survey from 1836 to 1841 and provided illustrations for natural history publications from 1842 on. In 1855, on one a trip to prepare a series of views of major North American cities he read John Ruskin's "Modern Painters." Ruskin's ideas significantly changed Hill's direction.
Given the lack of a concrete date for this work, it is unclear whether it dates from the period after he read "Modern Painters" or is related to his botanical work.