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Edgar Alwin Payne (American, 1883-1947)


Also known as:  Payne, Edgar

The Sierra Nevada Mountains were to the California plein-air painter Edgar Alwin Payne what Mont Sainte-Victoire was to the French Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne: an evergreen source of subject matter and technical experimentation. Indeed, by the end of his career, Payne had become so associated with the Sierra Nevada, for years completing approximately one mountain painting per day and even producing a movie called "Sierra Journey," that "Payne Lake" at Humphrey's Basin was named after him. Payne left his hometown of Washburn, Missouri, at age fourteen and cut his teeth on the artist's trade by painting signs, murals and set designs in the Ozarks, Texas, and ultimately Chicago, where he trained for a brief two weeks at the Chicago Art Institute. A trip to the West Coast in 1909 exposed Payne for the first time to the majesty of the California landscape, from the hills of San Francisco to the high peaks of the Sierras to the shores of Laguna Beach, which soon became his home base. During the teens, Payne traveled and painted throughout the Southwest, under the auspices of the Santa Fe Railroad, and during the 1920s he and his wife, Elsie, lived in New York, but it was always California that fueled his artistic energy. In 1919 Payne founded the Laguna Beach Art Association and the Gallery of Laguna Beach, and by the early 1930s he had returned to Los Angeles, thereafter continuing his frequent trips to the Sierras. Payne's 1941 treatise, "The Composition of Outdoor Painting," underscored the ideal effects achievable through serial 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."

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