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Edgar Payne – A Master of Plein Air Painting

by Don Sahli

Today’s museum field trip features Edgar Payne, one of California’s early plein air artists. From February 2012 – March 2013, an exhibition, Edgar Payne: The Scenic Journey, of over 100 paintings and drawings, will travel to three museums – Crocker Art Museum, Pasadena Museum of Art and the Gilcrease Museum.  His work is featured in permanent collections in over 20 museums across the country.

No two ways about it, Edgar Payne captured the rugged grandeur of the west. The Sierra Nevada Mountains, Canyon de Chelly, and the California coast line were just some of the magnificent settings for his paintings.  From 1922 – 1924; he also spent two years painting in Europe. For your consideration; some interesting facts about Edgar Payne:

  • He began his career painting signs, house, stage sets and murals.
  • On his wedding day, he asked his bride-to-be, Elsie Palmer, to postpone their morning wedding to later in the day because the light was perfect for painting!  Lucky for Edgar, she was an artist too and said yes.
  • To attract tourists, the Santa Fe Railroad commissioned Payne, in exchange for travel and lodging and occasionally money, to paint the landscapes along the railroad from Albuquerque to California.
  • Payne’s book “Composition of Outdoor Painting” is in its 7th edition.

And last but not least, Colorado Public Television 12 is producing a documentary on Payne’s career.

Edgar Payne, masterful with color, composition and powerful in his imagery was a significant painter of his time.


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