Thursday, April 26, 2012

Exhibit--William Keith and the California Oak

I went recently to an exhibit at St Mary's College, William Keith and the California Oak. At first I thought I'd try to talk about Keith's life and the exhibit as a whole... But, you can get a brief overview of his life here, at the St. Mary's website. He was a California painter and a friend of John Muir, and a contemporary of George Inness. He started out painting large, romanticized Hudson River School Landscapes, but later realized there was no way a painter could capture the grandeur of nature. So he began painting smaller, more intimate scenes, characteristic of tonalism, that suggested a fleeting moment, and a reality beyond the surface. Here is one of his later paintings. It is just a moment at dusk, and appears so insubstantial, the paint is like a mist.

Here is a closer view of the foreground. There are no hard edges. It has a dream-like quality. If you step onto that grass, it looks so soft, you would probably just sink in. The cows in the upper left are barely distinguishable. The paint is translucent, with several layers visible.

This is the sky. The color here is more true to the actual painting. The sky is painted solidly, with opaque paint, and that little rugged edge at the top of the trees is the most definite edge in the whole piece. Even the tree trunks are transparent! The warm colors and distant light give a sense of spirituality and comfort.


  1. That's a really gorgeous painting Linda, thanks for alerting me to William Keith's existence. I hadn't heard of him before.

  2. Thank you, Paul. Keith was born in Scotland, but came to the US as a child.


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