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The nature of William S. Rice: Arts and crafts painter and printmaker
Installation view. © Don Milici.

PASADENA, CA.- The Pasadena Museum of California Art is presenting The Nature of William S. Rice: Arts and Crafts Painter and Printmaker, which offers a rare glimpse into the private world of William S. Rice (1873–1963), an artist and avid naturalist known for his ability to refine nature to its simplest forms. Featuring over 50 watercolors and block prints, the works, some on public view for the first time, illuminate the techniques and approaches Rice used to singularly capture and depict the California landscape.

After graduating from the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia, Rice studied under famed illustrator Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute. His illustrative sensibility was further developed as a staff artist at the Philadelphia Times before he was eventually lured to Northern California by the Arts and Crafts movement. There, he joined friend Frederick Meyer, who had established the California Guild of Arts and Crafts (today the California College of Arts). In an article in the Pennsylvania newspaper The Manheim Sentinel that Rice wrote in 1900, he described his arrival on the west coast: “We were in California at last, that wonderful country that I had read so much about and so often longed to see. The strange trees and shrubbery, the redwoods, cedars, pines and live oaks, and the wondrously blue skies were the undeniable proofs of that fact.” This passion for the state infused his work, and as he continued to hone his practice, he took special interest in Japanese block prints and ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”), ultimately transforming the Japanese polychrome technique into graphic distillations of California’s untrammeled scenery, favoring strong, stylized lines and planes of pure color.

Although particularly well known for his block prints and as author of two books for students on the process, he was also an accomplished watercolorist and often traveled to sketch on site in the peace of nature, or as he put it, in the “glorious woods,” producing evanescent visions of Santa Cruz, Stockton, and Yosemite, among other sites. The Nature of William S. Rice: Arts and Crafts Painter and Printmaker sheds light on the artist’s varied achievements, including several neverbefore-seen works capturing the pristine California landscape before urban development.

The Nature of William S. Rice: Arts and Crafts Painter and Printmaker is organized by the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.

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