Edgar Alwin Payne was a popular American Western artist and muralist. As a master in landscape painting and design, Payne was heralded for his innovative style and precise attention to detail. Born in Washburn, Missouri, on March 1, 1833, Payne traveled extensively throughout the United States and Mexico. He also traveled to Canada and Europe, where he spent summers in the Alps. While his travels served as inspiration for his paintings, it was the American West that appealed most to his heart. The turn-of-the-century artist left home at age 14, and earned his keep by painting signs, portraits, and even houses. Edgar also picked up a few bucks painting stage sets for local theatrical productions.His passion, however, was painting murals and scenic landscapes.
As a traveling artist, Edgar Alwin Payne had incredible depth and range. This was primarily due to his travels across the Ozarks, the Midwest, and several parts of the world. Edgar would find himself in Chicago, where he enrolled at the prestigious Art Institute. He, however, did not like the rigid structure of the school, and ended up leaving in just two weeks. Payne preferred the open wilderness, which served as a true inspiration for his masterpieces. He also preferred his own sense of direction, which entailed hours of practice and self-teaching techniques. This led Payne to his first exhibit at the Palette and Chisel Club. The exhibit would showcase his landscape works, which were primarily painted on small easels. As a result of this display, Edgar was able to secure more commissions, assignments, and mural work.
Edgar Alwin Payne would then make his way to the West Coast at age 26. In fact, his 1909 paintings of Laguna Beach truly captured the allure and essence of his cutting-edge style. While simplistic in nature, Payne’s paintings transcended several styles and genres. He would then head up the coast to San Francisco, where he met several other aspiring and commercial artists. This included Elsie Palmer whom he would later marry in 1912. While Payne would return to California a year prior to his marriage, he ended back in Chicago the following year where Elsie now worked as commercial artist. The union of both artists culminated in the birth of their daughter, Evelyn, in 1914. As an artistic couple, both Elsie and Edgar were well known in Chicago’s thriving art circle. This led to an extensive exhibit at the Art Institute, which proudly showcased Edgar’s mural and landscape works.
The couple then headed back to San Francisco, where they attended the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Edgar would then head to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which served as the backdrop for some of his hallmark and signature paintings. As word of Payne’s incredible talent spread, the Railroad commissioned to paint a Southwest motif along the trek from Albuquerque to California. This project further cemented Edgar’s impressive painting skills, while forever linking him to the American West. Payne would then paint extensively in the Four Corners Area, along with Yosemite and the Navajo Nation Reservation. He would paint the American West for well over 20 years. Sadly, Edgar Alwin Payne passed away from cancer on April 8, 1947. His wife, Elsie, was with him till the very end, and passed away peacefully on June 17, 1971.