Precise. That’s the best word to describe Edward (Ed) Rice’s architectural paintings. They most often represent details of buildings—sometimes vernacular, other times more pretentious—set against a bright blue sky. They are often sharply lit, sometimes casting deep shadows. 

Rice was born in Augusta, Georgia, and has continued to live there, or across the river in North Augusta, Georgia, ever since. In an interview he recalled a family road trip as a child and how impressed he was by the imposing Edgefield County Courthouse in South Carolina, with its classical portico and sweeping set of stairs. In terms of art, he was precocious; he started drawing at two, and at age ten he was taking lessons in drawing and watercolor, first privately, then at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art between 1963 and 1966. At his graduation from North Augusta High in 1971 he was saluted as the most talented member of his class. 

For a period of five years, 1971 to 1975, Rice performed music professionally with the Rice Brothers, alongside his twin, Patrick. Simultaneously, between 1972 and 1974, he studied at Augusta College under Freeman Schoolcraft and when he retired from teaching Rice continued to take lessons with his mentor for five more years. Schoolcraft was both a painter and sculptor who completed a commission for reliefs at a federal courthouse in Peoria, Illinois, under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration. He trained Rice in more than just painting, as the younger artist declared: “[he] taught me everything I know about color, and more important things as well: self-reliance, the meaning of dedication.” Rice continued to take lessons with his mentor for five more years after he retired from teaching.

Beginning in 1979 Rice became artist-in-residence at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art where he taught painting through 1993. Through 1982 he was also director of the school’s gallery and organized exhibitions of work by Schoolcraft and Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, along with that of others. Rice has admired a broad variety of artists, including Italian Renaissance masters for their handling of linear perspective. Among American artists his high regard for Edward Hopper seems only natural, though Rice’s paintings lack Hopper’s moodiness. Other artists are less obvious; he has admitted that Georgia O’Keeffe influenced the typical size of his canvases, forty-eight by thirty inches. Like her compositions, many of his reach to the edge of the canvas. Rice’s concern for the seasonal variations of light and color mirrors that of Claude Monet, although their paint handling is worlds apart; the surface of a painting by Rice is flat, in dramatic contrast to the French master’s impasto. Persistence with one subject is another trait they have in common; in 1989 Rice took a hiatus from architectural imagery and painted twenty-one paintings of a fig tree outside his studio. He likened the repetition of one subject to “a guy playing on the saxophone. He can play the same solo over and over, but each time make it a little different—like more sad or more soulful or more alert.”

While Rice has traveled both abroad and in this country—including a trip to New Mexico with Schoolcraft—his focus has been on Augusta buildings. One major exception was a commission from the Greenville County Museum of Art to depict four churches. The task was to conceive of them as a group, while simultaneously distinguishing them from one another. In 2003 he tried his hand at creating monotypes with Greenville-based printmaker Phil Garrett. Rice commented about his experience: “There’s really no going back. You paint the plate and print the plate. … With my paintings I go back over it 1,000 times. The longest any of the prints took was ten minutes—I did several [in] under sixty seconds.”

In 2017 Rice was was honored with the 2017 South Carolina Governor’s Award for the Arts, and he has enjoyed extensive recognition through many exhibitions across the southeast and through numerous articles. What has challenged him and his admirers is how to label him. In a 2011 artist’s statement he described such an event: “Recently a noted art professional visited my studio and asked me how I would describe my work. ‘Straight-forward realism’? I said. To which my visitor replied, ‘Well, Ed, it’s many things, but it is certainly not straight-forward, and it is not, in a broad sense, realism!’”