A recently opened exhibition at the Garioch Heritage Centre in Inverurie aims to shed more light on William Keith.
William may not be well known in his native Aberdeenshire but in America he is celebrated as California’s leading landscape painter.
Following the death of his father just weeks before he was born in 1838, William spent much of his childhood with his grandparents, before the family moved to New York in 1850.
An apprenticeship as an engraver led to a short period of work in California.
This must have made an impression on the young William as he resolved to return there and make it his permanent home.
Encouraged by his wife Lizzie, who was a fine watercolourist, William embarked on what was to be a hugely successful career as a painter. Painting trips to New England and Germany followed, but California was to be the main inspiration for his life’s work.
The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 led to the destruction of Keith’s studio and the loss of almost 2000 paintings and sketches.
Undeterred, William Keith picked up his brushes again with renewed energy. His prolific output during his life meant that many examples of his work remain, including a large collection of around 200 paintings held by Saint Mary’s College of California.
In 1872 William Keith met the naturalist, author, pioneering environmentalist, and fellow Scot, John Muir. The two men became instant friends, and this enduring friendship is the focus of the current exhibition which features reproductions of Keith’s most famous works, and richly illustrated, extensively researched, information panels.
Keith and Muir supported and inspired each other throughout the rest of their lives and their shared passion in the natural landscape have left us with a legacy of fine paintings, and the recognition of John Muir as the ‘Father of the National Parks’ in the United States.
‘William Keith and John Muir - Kindred Souls’ has been curated by the Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace in Dunbar, and is supported by Aberdeenshire Libraries.
The exhibition is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am until 4pm until the end of February.