William Seltzer Rice, painter, printmaker, and craftsman, was born in Manheim, Pennsylvania on June 23, 1873. As a child, Rice taught himself how to draw and set up his studio in the corner of his grandfather’s old carriage shop. After high school Rice earned the necessary money for art school by teaching other students to draw. He enrolled at the Pennsylvania School of Industrial Art where he was awarded a scholarship. In 1895, after graduation he landed a job as staff artist for the Philadelphia Times but continued taking classes with Howard Pyle at the Drexel Institute.
In August of 1900, a job offer from his colleague and friend, Frederick H. Meyer, brought Rice to California. At the age of twenty-seven, he became Assistant Art Supervisor in the Stockton Public Schools. In 1910, Rice moved to the East Bay, living first in Alameda before settling in Oakland in 1915. He taught for thirty years in the Alameda and Oakland public schools, and periodically taught classes for the University of California Extension and the California College of Arts and Crafts. While teaching, Rice was taking classes at the California College of Arts and Crafts and earned his BFA in 1929.
Rice began his career in watercolor and produced an amazing body of watercolors capturing the pristine beauty and varied landscapes of California and the southwest. His watercolors from his first fifteen years in California place him in Cazadero, Healdsburg, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Capistrano, Leona and Niles Canyons, Pacific Grove, Moss Beach, the Russian River, Stockton, French Camp, Laguna Beach, Yosemite, Tamalpais, Shasta and Lake Tahoe.
During San Francisco’s 1915 Panama Pacific International Exhibition, Rice had a chance to study and absorb the techniques of the Japanese woodcuts on display. He would eventually incorporate some of these techniques into his own working knowledge of the medium. In the fall of 1917, the Oakland Art Gallery (now the Oakland Museum of California) featured a solo exhibition of his color woodcuts and the following year a major exhibition of his color woodcuts was mounted under the auspices of the San Francisco Art Association in the Palace of Fine Arts Exposition Grounds.
Though he gained national recognition for his printmaking, Rice embodied the Craftsman spirit by exploring a variety of media; besides painting with watercolor and oil, he worked in ceramics, hammered copper, leathercraft, and photography. He was also an innovative printmaker exploring the techniques of monotype, etching, and lithography. Rice authored two books on the subject of block printing, including Block Prints and How to Make Them, and he wrote and illustrated articles on a variety of subjects that were published in various periodicals.
Rice was a member of and exhibited with the Print Makers Society of California, California Society of Etchers, Prairie Printmakers, Bay Region Art Association, Northwest Printmakers, and the San Francisco Art Association. He also exhibited with the California Water Color Society, Association of American Etchers, Print Club of Philadelphia, and the Wichita Art Association.
Rice’s work is represented in numerous public collections including the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Anchorage Museum, Boston Public Library, Chasen Museum of Art, Crocker Art Museum, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Fitzwilliam Museum, Haggin Museum, Hood Museum of Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Library of Congress, Manheim Historical Society, Mills College Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Nevada Museum of Art, New York Public Library, Oakland Museum of California, Philbrook Museum of Art, Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Sonoma County Museum, Spencer Museum of Art, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, University of the Pacific, Worcester Art Museum, and the Yosemite Museum.
William Seltzer Rice died in Oakland, California on August 27, 1963.