William Keith 1833- 1911
Scottish born William Keith began his career as an engraver in New York. He settled in San Francisco in 1862, learned painting from his wife, and began to paint full time in 1868. Influenced by John Muir, whom he knew, and the works of George Inness, Keith’s poetic California landscapes often recall Scottish and European scenes. Typically, and in the style of the Hudson River School painters, Keith concentrates on nature and on light, painting in one or two small figures to give some sense of the vastness of scale. But in the 1886 painting, Glacier Meadow in the High Sierra, Keith includes an entire Native American camp. Small figures, campfires, lodges and horses line both sides of the limpid river at the base of the alpine peaks. This suggestion of some ceremonial meeting of bands lends an extra sanctity to the spiritual beauty of the location. Keith’s works were extremely popular and were influential in the drive to create National Parks and preserve the beauty of the West. Hundreds of his paintings were lost in the earthquake of 1906.