Edgar Alwin Payne (American, 1883-1947)

California Coast, n.d.

California Coast, n.d.

Oil on canvas 33 1/2 in. x 42 1/2 in. (85.09 cm x 107.95 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, gift of Mrs. Charles G. Johnson, conserved with funds provided by the Historical Collections Council of California Art


  • In his 1941 book Composition of Outdoor Painting, Edgar Payne summed up a fundamental quality of his art: “At the basis of all things there is energy, activity or power—call it what you will—that is produced between opposing forces.”1 Payne’s diverse subjects included Southern California coastal views, the peaks and lakes of the Sierra, the Swiss Alps, boats in Brittany, France, and Italy, and western scenes of Navajo horsemen in the Arizona and New Mexico deserts. Although Payne utilized the vigorous brushwork and color of Impressionism, his paintings were a departure from the quiet, genteel refinement of most Impressionist painters. Payne left his native Missouri in 1902 to travel to the South, the Midwest, and Mexico. He earned money by painting houses, signs, and stage sets, and later found employment producing murals for civic buildings, courthouses, and theatres throughout the Midwest. He settled in Chicago in 1907. As a painter, he considered himself self-taught, having studied just two weeks at the Art Institute of Chicago. Payne first visited California in 1909, spending 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. He moved to Glendale, California, in 1917 and then established a home and studio in Laguna Beach. In 1918, he became a founding member and president of the Laguna Beach Art Association. He continued painting and exhibiting in Laguna and Los Angeles until 1922, when he and Elsie began a two-year painting tour of Europe. Upon their return, Payne turned to vigorous, powerful scenes drawn from his sketching trips to the Sierra. He also sought to capture the vastness and power of the Southwestern landscape.

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