William Birch McMurtrie was born in 1816 in Philadelphia, PA, the son of Henry McMurtrie, an eminent anatomy and science teacher. William learned to delineate from his father. What other art training he had is unknown; however, he was named for William Russell Birch, Philadelphia painter and engraver, with whom he may have studied. As a man-about-town and constantly in debt, he needed to escape his creditors.
Hired as a topographical draftsman for the Pacific Coast Survey, he arrived in California in 1849 and worked for the survey intermittently until 1859. He did watercolors and pencil drawings up and down the West Coast. His drawings were simple, accurate in detail, and used little shading. His view of San Francisco from Telegraph
Source: Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Artists of the American West (Samuels); California On Stones (Peters); New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America; California Historical Society ; First 100 Years of Painting in California (J. Van Nostrand); Philadelphia Sunday Dispatch. 1-5-1973 (obit).Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here
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