In the late nineteenth century, William Keith had gained a reputation as one of the most important and influential artists in California. Immigrating from Scotland when he was twelve, Keith lived in New York with his mother before permanently settling in California in 1860. He was captivated by the vibrant, burgeoning society of San Francisco during the Gold Rush which introduced him to many local art patrons. He befriended Naturalist John Muir and in 1872, they traveled together to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite.
In 1880, Keith accompanied one of his paintings depicting Mt. Shasta on a tour to Philadelphia and Boston. The trip east afforded the artist the opportunity to travel to New Hampshire and Maine to explore a new locale that yielded a selection of works depicting the New England landscape. "These were highly praised by the critic of the Californian for their broad effects, their 'bold grasp of the subject as a whole.' The critic expressed his opinion, possibly borrowed from Keith himself, that 'artists too often make the mistake of finishing every rock, tree and bank. The one impression sought is lost in a maze of impressions...In Mr. Keith's sketches everything is properly subordinated to and harmonized with the whole as in nature itself...' Clearly, Keith's style had become broader as a result of his trip east, and new currents in landscape painting that he had been exposed to were showing their influence in his new work." (A.C. Harrison, Jr., William Keith: The Saint Mary's College Collection, Moraga, California, 1994 ed., pp. 21-22)
The present painting most likely depicts Mary H. Hanson with Keith's wife, Lizzie, in the woods of Damariscotta, Maine. The work is directly comparable to William Keith's painting entitled White-Robed Artist in Forest (Collection of Hearst Art Gallery, Saint Mary's College, Moraga, California).