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Views of the Golden State

Livermore Valley Arts displays exhibits featuring California landscapes
San Anselmo Valley Near San Rafael, 1868 by William Keith.

From the High Sierra Mountains to Yosemite Valley to Marin County, renowned painter William Keith devoted his artistic career to capturing the beauty and stillness of California landscapes. Six of the painter's most iconic images, along with the work of various regional contemporary artists, are on display in Livermore through the new year.

Guests can view "150 Years of A Beautiful California: Landscapes From William Keith to Today" at the UNCLE Credit Union Art Gallery inside the Bankhead Theater lobby now through Jan. 7. The exhibit highlights imagery of rivers, lakes, forests and woodlands throughout the state.

"The public is invited to share in this magnificent exhibit and surrounding events at The Bankhead, to celebrate our own heritage and the beautiful state in which we are privileged to live," said Livermore Valley Arts (LVA) in a statement about the exhibit.

The late Keith was a San Francisco-based artist most known for capturing the California landscape through paintings. He immigrated from Scotland during the 1850s with his family in an attempt to establish an engraving business.

Keith's work was heavily inspired by his friend, fellow Scotsman and naturalist John Muir. It is said that Muir encouraged Keith to capture the details of landscapes and nature early on in his artistic career, according to exhibit organizers. 

It was after many camping trips into the California wilderness with Muir, in areas like the Russian River or Yosemite Valley, the artist developed an appreciation for the scenery. 

During the middle of his career, Keith's style and inspiration had altered after several trips to Europe.

"By the time he returned to San Francisco in 1872, his painting style had changed considerably," LVA said in its statement. "The abundance of foreground detail typical of early works like 'San Anselmo Valley Near San Rafael' had been replaced by looser, sketchier brushstrokes as in 'Mount Lyell, California Sierra'."

Works from Keith are presented by LVA in collaboration with Saint Mary's College Museum of Art.

"His European experience had consisted more of looking at art, talking with artists, and painting on his own rather than of formal art education," LVA added.

Keith was influenced by then "modern" French and German painters of the time period.

By the 1880s, the painter had developed a strong reputation for "grand panoramic landscapes" on canvases as large as six by 10 feet.

In his lifetime, the artist was celebrated for his ability to recreate the picturesque views of the Golden State.

In addition to Keith's work, the UNCLE Credit Union Art Gallery exhibit features contemporary artists from around the Bay Area who also focus on painting California landscapes.

"Showcasing all the beauty around us, this exhibit exudes an aura of the hills, blue skies, and lush landscapes that surround us here in our wonderful state. Many of these artists are award-winning artists -- all are noted for their exceptional landscapes," organizers said. 

Works by artists such as David Gates, Jeff Hemming and Norma Webb are on display.

While the exhibit is currently open to view, an official opening reception is planned for this Saturday (Oct. 21) from 1-4 p.m.

A special section of the exhibit features the work of local artist George Staehle in "Talking Art". Staehle's art is displayed in the Founders Room of the theater.

The artist highlight shows off Staehle's watercolor creations, which are said to be a mix of whimsical and thought-provoking.

"They contain people in solitude or bliss, a fox and deer in camouflage, pelicans confronting armadas of sailboats, boat works and bridge taking showers, sandpipers adorning beaches, blackbirds and a cat inspecting fences, a dinosaur puzzled in Livermore’s Sycamore Groves trees, ghostly blue rapids on the Truckee River, and a congregation of churches, one with four personalities," said LVA of Staehle's work.

Staehle previously studied with Pleasant Hill watercolor artist Jade Fon and Livermore's Margo Kirkwood. He was also a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for over 40 years and now writes poetry, in addition to painting. 

Staehle is set to host a reception and artist talk for "Talking Art" at the gallery on Nov. 11 from 2-4 p.m.

To find out more about the "150 Years of A Beautiful California: Landscapes From William Keith to Today" and "Talking Art" exhibits, visit


About the Author: Nicole Gonzales

Nicole Gonzales is a staff reporter for Embarcadero Media’s East Bay Division, the Pleasanton Weekly. Nicole began writing for the publication in July 2022.
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