William Berra is an American Painter of landscapes, figures, and still life. His work is represented by galleries throughout the United States and his work is in many public and private collections. William Berra was born in York, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three children. His interest in art started in grade school and continued to thrive throughout high school. Rather than following the usual course of study, Berra was fortunate to attend the York Academy his junior and senior years. He then attended the Maryland Institute of Fine Arts in Baltimore, where he experimented briefly with abstract expressionism and non-objective painting. He discontinued his course of study at the Institute to follow a path of his own choosing, working in a more traditional manner including plein air painting. Berra prides himself on being self-taught and takes satisfaction in having cultivated his own style of painting.
Berra spent the 1980s primarily painting Northern New Mexico en plein air. He was influenced by the Macchiaioli painters of 19th century Italy, precursors to the French practitioners of Impressionism, and he experimented with techniques to achieve their effects. One technique was that of painting on a board shellacked with an orange base. The undercoating generally warms the painting, showing through where oil paint is applied sparingly. He also placed "complementary hues side by side for maximum visual vibration."
In the 1990s, Berra began to spend more time painting in the studio, developing material gathered in plein air sketches and photographs. He expanded his horizons and his subject matter, traveling and painting landscapes in Europe, Hawaii, and throughout North America. Italy became a favorite subject. In one project, Berra spent time in Rome seeking out views painted in the mid-19th century by a favorite artist, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and other plein air painters of Grand Tour Subjects. The paintings from this project were the subject of a solo exhibition in 2001.
Berra also turned his attention increasingly to figurative work. Starting with oil sketches of his wife painted on location in Europe, he developed a style that presents ambiguous figures in abstract, unresolved landscapes. He began an ongoing series of beach scenes that have become increasingly simplified and abstracted in recent years. His nude series presents a female figure either in intimate domestic settings or on utterly abstracted backgrounds.