William S. Rice

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William Seltzer Rice
William S Rice 1906.jpg
Born June 23, 1873
Manheim, Pennsylvania
Died August 27, 1963 (1963-08-28) (aged 90)
Oakland, California
Nationality American
Known for Woodblock prints

William Seltzer Rice (June 23, 1873 – August 27, 1963) was an American woodblock print artist and art educator associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement in California.

Early life[edit]

Born and raised in Manheim in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, he grew up with his parents in his grandparent's home on Market Square that had been occupied by his family for four generations. His parents were John Rice and Sara Seltzer Rice. His grandfather, Samuel Rice, operated a carriage painting business in a shop at the back of the property. Interested in painting from a young age, William Rice set up a small studio in the corner of his grandfather's shop. He took occasional lessons from itinerant painters.[1]


After completing high school, Rice himself began teaching drawing, saving his money to attend art school in Philadelphia, where he lived with a cousin. He won an art school scholarship, and also got a job with the Philadelphia Times as a staff artist. He began studies at the newly founded Drexel Institute, where Howard Pyle was among his teachers.

He also attended classes at the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, now known as the University of the Arts. There, he began a friendship with Frederick Meyer, a German immigrant who later was hired as art supervisor for the Stockton public schools.

Career in California[edit]

In 1900, Meyer hired Rice as assistant art supervisor, and he relocated to Stockton, California. Meyer moved to San Francisco in 1902, and Rice was promoted to Meyer's job.[2]

Rice began a personal exploration of scenic California, visiting Yosemite National Park in 1901 and Lake Tahoe in 1904. He also visited all of the Spanish missions in California.

In 1910, Meyer convinced Rice to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area to participate more actively in the Arts and Crafts movement, and Rice obtained a job teaching art for the Alameda public schools. He fraternized with members of the Berkeley art colony and contributed his block prints to their 1911 Exhibition of California Artists at the Hillside Club.[3]

woodblock print showing Robert Louis Stevenson's house in Monterey, California
R. L. Stevenson house - Monterey, 1915
woodblock print showing Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, California
Night - Yosemite, 1920
woodblock print showing the courtyard of Mission San Juan Bautista in California
San Juan Bautista, 1920 .
woodblock print showing a glacier in California's Sierra Nevada
Source of the Glacier, 1920.

He spent the rest of his professional career teaching art in the Alameda and Oakland public schools. He taught drawing and painting, as well as crafts, including metalcraft and leather working. He began freelance writing and illustrating for Sunset Magazine.

In 1913, he studied design with Ralph H. Johonnot, an associate of Arthur Wesley Dow, who was an early advocate of color block printing in the United States. Rice toured Europe in the summer of 1913, visiting Chartres, Rothenberg and Venice.

In 1915, he married Susan Steel, and they honeymooned at Lake Tahoe. That same year, the Panama Pacific International Exposition took place in San Francisco, and he was impressed by the Japanese woodblock prints he saw there. He resolved to become a woodblock print artist. Instead of following the Japanese team method, where an artist did an original painting, who then turned it over to a team of wood carvers and printers, he decided to take control of the entire creative process himself.

His friend Frederick Meyer had founded the School of the California Guild of Arts and Crafts, originally in Berkeley and later in Oakland. After receiving accreditation, it was renamed in 1936 the California College of Arts and Crafts and in 2003 became the California College of the Arts.[3] Meyer hired Rice to teach summer classes at his school. In addition, Rice also taught evening extension classes at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1918, Rice had his first major exhibition of wood and linoleum block prints at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, which was designed by Bernard Maybeck for the Panama Pacific International Exposition.[4]

Rice wrote two teaching texts, Block Printing in the Schools (1929) and Block Prints: How To Make Them (1941), both published by Bruce Publishing Company.

Rice won the Best Print award at the show of the California Society of Etchers in 1933. Gump's in San Francisco was one of his leading dealers.[3] His work was displayed in the printmaker's exhibition at the 1939 New York World's Fair.[5]

His artistic collaborators and influences included Pedro de Lemos, Elizabeth Norton, Roi Partridge, Gustave Baumann, Lorenzo P. Latimer, Norma Bassett Hall and the sisters Mary & Frances Gearhart.

His work was featured in a one-man show at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California in 1959.

William S. Rice died at his home in Oakland, California in 1963.


In 1978 - 1979, the Smithsonian American Art Museum held an exhibition called American Color Woodcuts: The Years of Transition, that featured the works of 40 artists including Rice.[6]

His works are in the collections of the California College of the Arts, the National Museum of American Art, the Boston Public Library, the New York Public Library, the California State Library, the Library of Congress,[7] the Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts, the Elvehjem Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, the Fitzwilliam Museum.[8] and the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College.[9]


  1. ^ Treseder, Roberta Rice (2009). William S. Rice: California Block Prints. Petaluma, CA: Pomegranate Communications, Inc. pp. 7–8. ISBN 978-0-7649-4803-9. 
  2. ^ Treseder, Roberta Rice (2009). William S. Rice: California Block Prints. Petaluma, CA: Pomegranate Communications, Inc. pp. 8–12. ISBN 978-0-7649-4803-9. 
  3. ^ a b c Edwards, Robert W. (2012). Jennie V. Cannon: The Untold History of the Carmel and Berkeley Art Colonies, Vol. 1. Oakland, Calif.: East Bay Heritage Project. pp. 86–87, 252, 589–594, 690. ISBN 9781467545679.  An online facsimile of the entire text of Vol. 1 is posted on the Traditional Fine Arts Organization website (http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/10aa/10aa557.htm).
  4. ^ Treseder, Roberta Rice (2009). William S. Rice: California Block Prints. Petaluma, CA: Pomegranate Communications, Inc. pp. 12–14. ISBN 978-0-7649-4803-9. 
  5. ^ Miesse, William C. (March 8, 1989). "The Significance of Mount Shasta as a Visual Resource - Woodblock Artists: Early 1900s". Weed, CA: College of the Siskiyous. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  6. ^ Treseder, Roberta Rice (2009). William S. Rice: California Block Prints. Petaluma, CA: Pomegranate Communications, Inc. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-7649-4803-9. 
  7. ^ Hughes, Edan Milton. "California Artist William S. Rice". San Francisco: Edan Milton Hughes: Specializing in the Art of Early California. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  8. ^ "William Seltzer Rice". New York: International Fine Print Dealers Association. Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  9. ^ "2006 - 2007 Recent Acquisitions 10". Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College. 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2010.