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Edgar Alwin Payne

Birth place or City of origin:
State of origin: MO
Last known City:
Last known State:
Start/Birth date: 1883
Death/End date: 1947

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. He became inspired by places like 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 traveled 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 lifelong love of the West recorded in unforgettable canvases by this accomplished painter.

Payne’s work is held in many collections including 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 courtesy of


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