William Keith was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on November 21, 1838. In 1850 Keith immigrated with his family to New York where, as a teenager, he was apprenticed to a wood engraver. He is believed to have come to San Francisco for two months in 1858 as an employee of Harper Brothers publishers. Following this assignment, he visited Scotland and worked in England for the London Daily News. Having saved enough money, he returned to San Francisco in 1859 and opted to remain. He went to work in the engraving shop of Harrison Eastman and later established his own engraving business with Durbin Van Vleck at 611 Clay Street. Keith first became interested in painting in 1863 and began studying with Samuel Brookes. The following year he married artist Elizabeth Emerson and, under her tutelage, began painting in watercolor. In 1868 he gave up engraving to devote all of his time to painting. The following year the Keiths were in Dusseldorf, where he studied with Flamm and Achenbach. After visiting the galleries and museums of Dresden and Paris, they returned to the United States and had a studio in Boston which they shared with artist William Hahn. Upon returning to San Francisco in 1872, Keith met naturalist John Muir who took him into the most remote parts of Yosemite, taught him the names of the trees and plants, and thoroughly acquainted him with nature's wonders. Becoming an avid nature lover, there was "scarcely a mountain in three-fourths of California where he had not kept vigil for days at a time, studying every detail of color, flower, rock, forge, shadow and sunshine." Keith became Thomas Hill's rival in monumental landscapes. When George Inness visited California in 1890, he worked in Keith's studio for many weeks. They made sketching trips together. The result for Keith was an influenced style reflecting the subjective rather than the spectacular. His "Majesty of the Oaks" sold at auction in New York City in 1903 for $2,300 about the same time "Glory of the Heavens" sold in San Francisco for $12,000. Keith commuted daily by ferry to his San Francisco studio and many of his later works are pastoral landscapes of Berkeley with oak trees, cows and ponds that he sketched en route. He painted nearly $4,000 oil paintings of which 2,000 burned in the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco. Keith has been called "Dean of California Artists" and "California's Old Master. Ina Coolbrith wrote of his work, "Here nature's heart throbs through the solitudes! Here nature's soul looks from the mystic height." His works are held by the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, the Corcoran Gallery, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the E.B. Crocker Art Gallery, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Kahn collection just to name a few.