William Seltzer Rice (1873-1963) was born and raised in Manheim, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in a home occupied by four generations of his family. William was interested in painting from an early age and set up a small studio in the carriage painting workshop owned by his grandfather at the rear of the property. After finishing his schooling, William began giving drawing lessons to save money to attend art school in Philadelphia. He showed such promise that he was awarded a scholarship and began his studies under illustrator and author Howard Pyle. During this time he also worked as a staff artist with The Philadelphia Times.
At age twenty seven William moved to Stockton, California to take the job of assistant art supervisor for the Stockton public schools. William soon moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where the region's Arts and Crafts movement was flowering. He began exploring the natural beauty of Northern California, visiting Yosemite National Park in 1901 and Lake Tahoe in 1904. He also visited all of the Spanish missions in California. Northern California became his lifelong home and his muse, inspiring a prolific career in art. William spent the rest of his professional career teaching art in the Alameda and Oakland public schools where he taught drawing and painting, as well as metalwork and leather working. He also taught evening art extension classes at The University of California at Berkeley.
In 1915 he married Susan Steel and they honeymooned on Lake Tahoe. That same year, the Panama Pacific International Exposition took place in San Francisco and William was impressed by the Japanese woodblock prints he saw. He resolved to become a woodblock print artist but unlike most block print artists of the day he designed, carved and printed the blocks himself, thus controlling the entire creative process. Block printing ultimately became his favourite artistic medium as it gave him the opportunity to combine his skills of draftsman ship, carving, and printing. The flora, fauna, and landscapes of California - from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Pacific Ocean – became the subjects that fed his creativity.
In 1918 William had his first major exhibition of wood and linoleum block prints at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. He went on to write two teaching texts about block printing and his work was displayed in the printmaker's exhibition at the 1939 New York World's Fair. William S. Rice died at his home in Oakland, California in 1963.
In 1978, The Smithsonian American Art Museum held an exhibition about woodcuts featuring the works of forty artists including William. His works are in, to name a few, 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 Library of Congress, The Oakland Museum of California and The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.