“Loma Prieta, Morning in the Santa Cruz Mountains,” by William Keith, 1874. Oil on canvas. Collection the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of the Bard Family in memory of Beryl Bard

We come across quotes by artists, philosophers, historians, and critics that offer a new way of looking at plein air painting. We offer one here and invite you to send statements that are particularly inspiring, informative, or thought-provoking. Here’s one, and we welcome your suggestions.

William Keith (1838-1911)

After a fire destroyed William Keith’s (1838-1911) studio and many of his paintings in 1906, the Scottish-born artist started over again with renewed energy and a more philosophical attitude about the things that mattered most to him. A booklet published in connection with a 1913 exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago included the following quote from Keith:

 “My subjective pictures are the ones that come from the inside. I feel some emotion and I immediately paint a picture that expresses it. The sentiment is the only thing of real value in my pictures, and only a few people understand that. Suppose I want to paint something recalling meditation or repose. If people do not feel that sensation when my work is completed, they do not appreciate nor realize the picture. The fact that they like it means nothing. Any one who can use paint and brushes can paint a true scene of nature — that is an objective picture. The artist must not depend on extraneous things. There is no reality in his art if he must depend on outside influences — it must come from within.”

One of Keith’s major paintings is included in the exhibition “California Dreaming: Plein-Air Paintings from San Francisco to San Diego,” currently on view at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in Santa Barbara, California (www.sbma.net).


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