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 Edgar Alwin Payne  (1883 - 1947)

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Lived/Active: California/Missouri      Known for: western landscape and waterscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Washburn, Missouri, Edgar Payne became one of the foremost plein-air landscape painters of California in the early 20th century. He is best known for his majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain scenes, and depicted so many Indians on horseback riding through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that a mountain lake, Lake Payne, was named for him. He painted many works "en plein air" and also did numerous sketches from which he later did studio paintings. He worked quickly and completed about one painting per day. He depicted many other locations as well including the coast of Laguna Beach, the Canadian Rockies, the French and Swiss Alps, the Italian and French Riviera, fishing scenes of Italy and France, and landscapes in the Southwest including the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly in Arizona.

Payne was active in Chicago early in his career and there had a distinguished reputation for painting stage scenery for famous actresses and for mural painting.

He left home at age 14 because his father objected so strongly to his son's dedication to an art career. He earned money painting houses, stage sets and murals, and traveled through the Ozarks, Texas, Mexico and Chicago where he received a major commission from the Congress Hotel for an 11,000 foot mural of Italian gardens. (Since destroyed). In Chicago, he was active with the Chicago Society of Artists and the Alumni Association of the Art Institute.

He was self-taught except for a brief period at the Art Institute of Chicago. Of his art education, his daughter said: "My father never studied with anyone. He tried the Chicago Art Institute for a little while, but he didn't like it. He considered himself to be completely self-taught." ("Plein Air" 26)

In 1909, he first visited California and painted scenes of Laguna Beach and San Francisco. During this time he discovered the beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains, where he returned continually throughout his career for the inspiration that led to his signature paintings and a turning from murals and stage sets to landscape painting.

He married artist Elsie Palmer in 1912, and the couple with their daughter, Evelyn, born in 1914, moved to Laguna Beach. They rented a beach-side cottage while Edgar built a home, which was the only one the family ever owned. They lived in it for three years, and it was a uniquely stable time for the family that traveled frequently in search of painting subjects.

Payne decided he wanted to have an art gallery for exhibiting artists, and in 1920 he became the founder and first president of the Laguna Beach Art Association and the Gallery of Laguna Beach. The first meeting was held in his studio. The Paynes later moved to Los Angeles so they could be closer to the Stendahl Galleries, which was in the Ambassador Hotel and represented his work.

In 1916, the Santa Fe Railroad commissioned him to paint the Southwest, and the couple spent four months in Canyon de Chelly. They also traveled and sketched the Grand Canyon and scenes of New Mexico and spent several years, 1922 to 1924, in Europe. Payne had a commercial artist friend, George Evans, who visited them in Europe, and according to Payne's daughter, Evans and the Paynes spent much time looking at artwork in museum. In the 1923 Paris Salon, Payne won an Honorable Mention, which was significant recognition because more than 7000 paintings were exhibited.

During the Depression, Payne took teaching jobs to earn money for him and his family, and he also wrote his book, "Composition of Outdoor Painting", which, with many printings, has been a popular guide to landscape painting. He and his wife continued to spend much time in New York City and had planned to build a house there, but did not start the project because of the economy.

The couple separated in 1932, but Elsie, who subsequently had a very successful career, returned to live with him towards the end of his life when he was ill. A major problem between them was his dominant personality and her resentment that her own considerable talents were submerged by his demands. Apparently he felt remorse. Their daughter wrote that "the last words her father spoke to her on his last day of life in 1947 were that 'he was sorry he had been so selfish and that everything had been for his art.' " ("Plein Air" 26)

ASSOCIATIONS:
Salmagundi Club
Allied Art Association
International Society Art League
California Art Club (President 1926)
Laguna Beach Art Association
Ten Painters of Los Angeles
Palette & Chisel Club, 1913
Chicago Society of Artists
American Artists Professional League
Carmel Art Association

EXHIBITIONS:
California State Fairs, 1917 (prize),1918 (prize)
Sacramento State Fair, 1918 (gold)
Sacramento, 1919 (medal)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1919 (solo), 1926 (gold medal)
Art Institute of Chicago, 1920 (prize)
Southwest Museum, 1921 (prize)
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Annual,1921,22,25
Paris Salon, 1923
National Academy of Design, 1929 (prize)
Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939
California Art Club, 1947 (prize).

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS: Murals
Empress Theatre & American Theatre, Chicago
Clay County Court House, Brazil, IN
Hendricks County Court House, Danville, IN
Queen Theatre, Houston

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS: Paintings
Nebraska Art Association, Lincoln
Peoria Society of Allied Artists
Herron Art Institute
Municipal Art Commission
Janesville (WI) Art Association
Indianapolis Museum
Laguna Art Museum
Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley
National Academy of Design
National Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.
Pasadena Art Institute
Pasadena Art Museum
Southwest Museum of Los Angeles
Springville (UT) Museum of Art
University of Nebraska Galleries
Art Institute of Chicago
Oakland Museum; Irvine Museum, CA
Fleischer Museum, Scottsdale, AZ

Sources:
Evelyn Payne Hatcher, Plein Air Magazine, June 2004
Donald Hagerty, Leading the West
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Redfern Gallery, Laguna Beach


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Washburn, Missouri on March 1, 1883, Edgar Payne left home at age 14 and found work painting houses, stage sets, and signs.  His travels took him through the Ozarks and into Mexico.  Except for a brief period at the Art Institute of Chicago, he remained a self-taught artist.

On his first visit to California in 1909, he spent several months painting in Laguna Beach before visiting San Francisco.  While in San Francisco he met artist Elsie Palmer whom he married in Chicago in 1912.  In 1917 he returned to Glendale, California with a commission from Chicago's Congress Hotel for a mural of 11,000 square yards of muslin which was accomplished with the help of other local artists and installed shortly thereafter.

In 1918, the Paynes established a home and studio in Laguna Beach where he organized and became the first president of the local art association.  He continued painting and exhibiting in Los Angeles and Laguna until 1922 when he and Elsie began a two-year painting tour of Europe.  During the next eight years their winter residence was mainly in and around New York City. They traveled from coast to coast in the U.S. until 1932 when they returned to Hollywood and the following year separated.

Payne is internationally famous for his canvases depicting Indians riding through desert canyons and landscapes of the Sierra Nevada.  He produced a color motion picture called "Sierra Journey" and Payne Lake in the High Sierra is named for him.

He died in Hollywood, CA on April 8, 1947.

Memberships:
Salmagundi Club (NYC); California Art Club (pres. 1926); Laguna Beach Art Association; Chicago Society of Artists; AAPL; Carmel Art Association

Exhibitions:
Palette & Chisel Club, 1913; California State Fairs, 1917, 1918 (medals); Ten Painters of Los Angeles, 1919; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1919 (solo); Art Institute of Chicago, 1920 (prize); Southwest Museum (LA), 1921 (prize); Paris Salon, 1923; National Academy of Design, 1929 (prize); Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939; California Art Club, 1947 (prize).

Collections:
National Academy of Design, New Mexico Art Association; Art Institute of Chicago; Orange Co. (CA) Museum; Irvine (CA) Museum; Chicago Museum; Indianapolis Museum; Bancroft Library (UC Berkeley); Pasadena Art Inst.; Pasadena Museum; Southwest Museum (LA); Springville (UT) Museum; Fleischer Museum (Scottsdale); Oakland Museum.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
The Paynes: Edgar & Elsie by Rena N. Coen; Plein Air Painters (Ruth Westphal); Design 1910; Artists of the American West (Doris Dawdy); Artists of the American West (Samuels); American Art Annual 1919-33; Southern California Artists (Nancy Moure); Los Angeles Painters of the 1920s; Who's Who in American Art 1936-41; NY Times, 4-9-1947 (obituary).
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.

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Edgar Payne was born in Washburn, Missouri in 1883. Leaving home at the age of fourteen, Edgar Payne made his way to Chicago working as a house, sign and set painter. Once in Chicago, he became well-known as a set painter and soon was commissioned to paint an 11,000 square foot mural for the Congress Hotel. Edgar Payne enrolled in classes at the Art Institute of Chicago but did not care for the instruction and soon dropped out. Edgar Payne continued to paint, however, joining the Chicago Society of Artists and the Palette and Chisel Club, and began traveling around the country for new subject matter to paint.

It was on one of these trips in 1909 that Edgar Payne happened upon Laguna Beach. Struck by the landscape, which was unique to a thus-far landlocked artist, Edgar Payne returned to paint the region often over the ensuing years. In 1912 Payne married fellow artist Elsie Palmer, who had met on one of his trips to California, in a ceremony in Chicago. Three years later, Payne and Palmer moved to Santa Barbara and, four years after that, Laguna Beach. There, Edgar Payne founded the Laguna Beach Art Association and served as its first president. The years 1919-1922 were relatively stable for Edgar Payne, as he traveled less than would be typical for him over the course of his career. In 1922 he and Elsie set off for a two year tour of Europe and, after that, returned to the United States and began living bi-coastally, moving between New York City and the Los Angeles area with the seasons.

Beginning in 1917 with a commission from the Santa Fe Railroad, Edgar Payne began traveling the Southwest of the nation in an effort to discover new landscapes and subjects to paint. Edgar Payne began to explore the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly and Northern New Mexico, developing a new color palette to match the light and earth of the region. Along with the Sierra Mountains, the subject of Edgar Payne's best-known work, the Southwest would be a region of continued interest for Edgar Paynee. His travels were extensive and well-documented, to the point that a lake in the High Sierras, Payne Lake, is named after him.

Fame struck early and often for Edgar Payne during the course of hisEdgar Payne, Summer Sierras, Oil on Canvas, Circa 1920, 12" x 16" career. He received an Honorable Mention in the 1923 Paris Salon, did a number of major commissions, including large mural pieces for the Empress Theater in Chicago, the Queen Theater in Houston and the Clay County Court House in Brazil, Indiana. Edgar Payne's work can be found in many museums, including but not limited to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Oakland Museum, the Fleischer Museum, the National Academy of Design, the Indianapolis Museum, the Laguna Museum and the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.

Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries:
Born in rural Missouri, Edgar Payne grew up in the Ozark Mountains which instilled in him a love for the wilderness that would remain with him the rest of his life. By the age of fourteen, Payne was completely on his own and made his way painting houses, signs and stage sets until he reached Chicago and began a brief period of formal training in fine art at the Art Institute of Chicago.

While in Chicago, Payne learned of a nascent art colony located at Laguna Beach, California. In 1911 he made his first visit to the region that would provide him with a lifetime of inspiration and which he was to immortalize on canvas. By 1917 Payne had made Laguna Beach his home. Here he was inspired by subjects that were close at hand: Santa Catalina, Laguna Canyon, and the Laguna shoreline. However, Payne was driven by an incessant wanderlust that lured him away from the Southland. Between 1922 and 1924, he travelled Europe and completed a series of impressive maritime and mountain scenes which strongly suggest his more mature work.

Upon his return from Europe, Payne began the body of work for which he is justifiably most famous, his paintings of the California Sierras. Over a period of twenty years, Payne repeatedly found inspiration in the dense forests and ever-imposing peaks of the High Sierras. Occasionally, Payne would make sketching and painting trips to northern Arizona and New Mexico, producing canvases that were totally different in palette from his other themes. Payne's talent enabled him to project the vastness of the Southwest--recording the silence of the weather-shaped monuments and magnifying their immensity by comparing them to man. His death in 1947 ended a life-long love of the West recorded in unforgettable canvases by this accomplished painter.

Payne's work is held in the collections of the Fleischer Museum of Art, Scottsdale, Arizona; the Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona; the Springville Museum of Art, Utah; the Brigham Young University Fine Arts Collection, Provo, Utah; and the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.


Biography from Lawrence Beebe Fine Art:
Edgar Payne was born in Washburn, Missouri on March 1, 1882. Since the age of 14 his goal was to become a painter, he began his career by designing and painting scenery for the stage, and murals for homes and theaters. Primarily a self taught artist, he did though study briefly at the Art Institute in Chicago. Edgar Payne married his wife Elsie Palmer in Chicago in 1912.

Recognized as one of California's leading landscape artists, Payne earned the respect of his peers and art critics for his Impressionistic landscapes painted in the plein-air style. Possessing a reverence for nature, he especially loved the mountains, and he took pack horses in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the upper lakes to sketch and paint.

Payne Lake in the Sierras was named in his memory. Payne glorified the Sierra Nevada Mountains Range's majestic peaks and lakes, the Swiss Alps, boats in Brittany, France and Italy, the Arizona Tablelands with Navajo horsemen and the California landscape.

He authored the book, "The Composition of Outdoor Painting", 1941. In his book Payne was quoted as saying about the process of painting, "A painter needs to study, meditate and experiment and practice interminably in order to produce a painting that would have nobility in its concept, variety, rhythm, repetition, unity, balance and harmony in its composition" -- all qualities found in Edgar Payne's works.

Edgar Payne won numerous awards, and he exhibited and sold his paintings successfully throughout his career. His works can be found in important private collections and in museums such as the Laguna Beach Museum of Art, the Chicago Art Museum, Southwest Museum of Los Angeles and the National Academy of Design Collection.Living in Laguna Beach, California,

Edgar Payne was involved in the formation of the Laguna Beach Art Association and became its first president in 1920. He died in Hollywood, California on April 8, 1947.

Biography from David Cook Galleries:
At the age of fourteen, Edgar Payne left his childhood home of Washburn, Missouri, to travel the United States and Mexico.  Payne survived by performing odd jobs including painting signs, stage sets, and houses.  Payne, who had a fifth grade education, considered himself to be primarily self-taught.  However, he received art training at the Payne-Morris Studio in Dallas, Texas, and at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Beginning in 1910, Payne found employment painting murals in civic buildings, courthouses, and theatres throughout the Midwest.  He married fellow artist, Elsie Palmer, in 1912.  In 1915, Payne moved with his family to Santa Barbara, California where he began to focus more of his time on easel painting.

While in California, Payne continued to work part time painting murals, earning a large commission from the Congress Hotel in Chicago in 1917. When not working commercially, Payne painted marine and Sierra Nevada scenes. He traveled often in the Sierras, where a lake is named for him, and throughout the Southwest.

Payne relocated to Laguna Beach, California, in 1919 where he became the founding president of the Laguna Beach Art Association (presently the Laguna Art Museum). In addition to his membership with the Laguna Beach Art Association, Payne was also a member of the California Art Club in Los Angeles; the Palette and Chisel Club in Chicago; and the Salmagundi Club in New York.  Payne traveled, painted, and exhibited in Europe between 1922 and 1924.  In 1923, he was included in the Paris Salon.

Biography from The Redfern Gallery:
A landscape painter and muralist, Edgar Payne was born in Washburn, Missouri on March 1, 1883. He left home at age 14 and found work painting houses, stage sets and signs.  His travels took him through the Ozarks and into Mexico. Except for a brief period at the Art Institute of Chicago, he remained a self-taught artist.

On his first visit to California in 1909, he spent several months painting in Laguna Beach before visiting San Francisco.  While in San Francisco, he met artist Elsie Palmer, whom he married in Chicago in 1912.  In 1917 he returned to Glendale, CA with a commission from Chicago’s Congress Hotel for a mural of 11,000 square yards of muslin which was accomplished with the help of other local artists and installed shortly thereafter.

In 1918, the Paynes established a home and studio in Laguna Beach, where he organized and became the first president of the local art association. He continued painting and exhibiting in Los Angeles and Laguna until 1922 when he and Elsie began a two-year painting tour of Europe.  During the next eight years their winter residence was mainly in and around New York City.  They traveled from coast to coast in the U.S. until 1932 when they returned to Hollywood and the following year separated.

Payne is known for his canvases depicting Indians riding through desert canyons and landscapes of the Sierra Nevada.  He produced a color motion picture called Sierra Journey, and Payne Lake in the High Sierra is named for him.


Biography from South Coast Fine Art:
Edgar Payne was born near Washburn, Missouri in 1883.  He was from a farming family and from an early age had to work long hours on the farm.  This was not an existence he enjoyed, and by the age of 14 he had left home with the desire to make his living as an artist.

He began his career by traveling the countryside designing and painting scenery for the stage and murals for homes and theaters.  He ended up for a time in Texas and then in Chicago.  Primarily a self-taught artist, he studied for a very brief period at the Art Institute in Chicago.

In 1909, Payne made his first trip to California, spending time in Laguna Beach and in San Francisco.  In San Francisco he met Elsie Palmer, also an artist.  Their romance took hold later when they were both working in Chicago, and they married in 1912.  In 1919 they moved to Laguna Beach and set up their home and studio.

It is Payne's work of the High Sierras for which he is best known.  Payne rarely dated any of his paintings but a rough chronology can sometimes be determined by the change from his early subdued tones, with careful brushstrokes, to his later style with bold, broader and looser brushstrokes.

Edgar Payne died in Hollywood in 1947.

Biography from DeRu's Fine Arts:
Edgar Payne was born in Washburn, Missouri on March 1, 1883. Payne left home at age 14 and found work painting houses, stage sets and signs. Except for a brief period at the Art Institute of Chicago, Payne remained a self-taught artist. On his first visit to California in 1909 he spent several months painting Laguna Beach before visiting Catalina Island, Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

In 1918 the Payne’s established a home and studio in Laguna Beach where he organized and became the first president of the Laguna Beach Art Association. He continued painting and exhibiting in Los Angeles and Laguna until 1922 when he took a two-year painting trip of Europe. During the next eight years winters were mainly spent in New York City. The Payne’s traveled from coast to coast in the United States until 1932 when they returned to Hollywood.

Payne is internationally renowned for his depictions of the High Sierras, Indians riding through desert canyons, landscapes of the Sierra Nevada and French and Italian boats scenes as well as authoring a book titled Composition of Outdoor Painting, which is now in its fifth printing and used by artists, teachers and collectors around the world. He died in Hollywood on April 8, 1947.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, V:
Born: Washburn, Missouri 1883
Died: Los Angeles, California 1947

Western landscape painter, muralist

Edgar Payne was a member of the Alumni Association of the Art Institute of Chicago but considered himself to have been self-taught. He had begun as a house and sign painter and as a decorator, becoming a member of the Chicago Society of Artists. In 1911, a sketching trip West took him to Laguna Beach, California where he settled in 1917. Later sketching trips were into the Sierras, which he learned so intimately that a lake was named for him. Payne had married Elsie Palmer, a fellow Chicago artist, in 1912.

In the 1920’s Payne traveled in Europe, winning an honorable mention in the 1923 Paris Salon. When he returned to California, he wrote a successful book on landscape painting and made a movie about the Sierras. His paintings were said to have been “post-impressionistic in manner.” He had also painted in Arizona and New Mexico, the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, and the mesas. Payne was listed as living in New York City in 1934 and in Los Angeles by 1941.

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,

Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing


Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
Edgar Payne was born in Washburn, Missouri in 1883. A landscape painter and muralist, Payne was a member of the Alumni Association of the Art Institute of Chicago and became a member of the Chicago Society of Artists.

In 1911 a sketching trip West took him to Laguna Beach, California where he settled in 1917. He spent so much time sketching and painting in the Sierras that a lake was named after him there.

In the 1920's Payne traveled extensively throughout Europe where he won an honorable mention in the 1923 Paris Salon. After his return to California, he wrote a successful book on landscape painting and made a movie about the Sierras. He traveled all over the country on painting expeditions, but Los Angeles remained his home where he died at the age of sixty-four.

His works are held by the Nebraska Art Association, the Chicago Municipal Art Commission, the Anschutz Collection, the Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis and the National Academy of Design to name a few. Famous as a muralist, his murals can still be found today in theaters and public buildings throughout the nation.


Biography from Edenhurst Gallery (Artists M to Z):
Edgar Alwin Payne was born on March 1, 1882 in Washburn, Missouri. Payne left home at an early age and earned a living as a house painter. He spent a very brief time at the Art Institute of Chicago, and otherwise was a self-taught artist. He met his wife, Elsie Palmer in San Francisco, California, and married her the following year.

In San Francisco, he received a commission for a 26,000 yard mural from the Congress Hotel. The Payne's settled in Laguna Beach, California, and Payne quickly became an important part of the art community there, being named the first President of the Laguna Beach Art Association.

The Payne's painted their way though both America and Europe, initially in 1922 and 1923, then later in the late 1920's. Payne became famous for his Indian-inspired landscapes, his scenes of the High Sierra, and his harbor scenes executed in France and Italy.

He died in Hollywood, California on April 3, 1947.

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
Edgar Payne was a self-taught artist, who has come to be known as one of the premiere Southern California plein air painters.   Payne and his artist wife, Elsie Palmer Payne, settled in Laguna Beach, California, in 1918, where he established and served as President of the Laguna Beach Art Association.

Best known for his majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain scenes, Payne also painted the California Coast, the Swiss Alps, Italian Harbors, and the Four Corners region of Arizona.

Biography from Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site:
Edgar Alwin Payne was an American landscape painter and muralist who was born on March 1, 1882 in Washburn, Missouri.  He left home at the age of fourteen and traveled in Mexico and the Midwest during which time he taught himself to paint; he also studied at the Chicago Art Institute.  In 1911 a sketching trip West took him to Laguna Beach, California where he settled in 1917.  Later sketching trips were into the Sierras, which he learned so intimately that a lake was named for him. 

Payne had married Elsie Palmer, a fellow Chicago artist, in 1912.  For about ten years Payne painted murals and easel paintings in the Midwest and East before settling in Los Angeles about 1920.  In 1922 he made a two-year trip to Europe where he devoted much time to painting scenes of the Swiss Alps and Brittany.  When he returned to California he wrote a successful book on landscape painting and made a movie about the Sierras. He also painted Arizona and New Mexico doing scenes of the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelley and the mesas.

Payne was an active member of many prestigious arts organizations, including the National Academy of Western Art and was a member of the Alumni Association of the Art Institute of Chicago.  During his life, Payne received international award recognition for his paintings.  Payne died in Los Angeles, California on April 8, 1947.

REFERENCES:

Ainsworth, Ed.  The Cowboy in Art.  New York: The World Publishing Co.  1968.

Benezit, E.  Dictionnaire Critique...Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs...Temps.  Paris: Librarie Grund.  1976.

Dawdy, Doris Ostrander.  Artists of the American West:  A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago: The Swallow Press, Inc.  1985.

Fielding, Mantle.  Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers.  Ed. by Glenn B. Optiz.  New York: Apollo Book.  1986.

Havlice, Patricia Pate.  Index to Artistic Biography.  2 volumes.  New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.  1973.


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


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