Friday, March 9, 2012

Edgar Payne Exhibit at the Crocker Museum


Wednesday, I went to Sacramento for the Edgar Payne exhibit. Payne wrote THE book on composition: Composition of Outdoor Painting. First printed in 1941, it is a classic, and still in print. My own copy is underlined and well read. This is a great exhibit, and many artists are returning to see it a second time. Unfortunately, it is not scheduled for any museums in the East.

When you are looking at the photos of his paintings in his book, they are only 2" square. So, seeing the originals at 4' square is surprising! The colors are vibrant and stunning. I tried to take a close-up photo of the brushwork, but a guard informed me no photography was allowed. In some cases, especially the early works, the paint was very thick, with short, straight horizontal and vertical strokes. Brushstrokes were less pronounced on the later works.

Payne got his start in painting as a scene painter for the theater, and he really could set a scene. You can see on some paintings, that the figures were added later, after the paint had dried. He used the square format very frequently, while most landscape painters use rectangles. He often painted monumental scenes of canyons or mountains with little tiny figures on horseback almost lost at the bottom of the canvas. The grandeur of nature, with man being just a tiny part of the whole.

He was an avid amateur photographer, and developed his own film. He also made treks into remote areas and set-up his easel to make "plein air" studies. These paintings were for reference and were hardly ever signed or shown.

Usually, when we look at a landscape painting, it is as if the picture frame is a window, and we are looking out onto the scene of the painting. Payne, however, pulls the scene up close, so his mountains are almost on top of us. His boats are so close you could almost touch them. If I could sum up his art with one word, it would be "monumental."

If you live near any of the cities where this exhibit is showing, it is certainly worth seeing!

1 comment:

  1. The full version of the documentary film Edgar Payne: The Scenic Journey is now available online:

    Hope you enjoy.

    btw, PMCA is working on a new retrospective, with Crocker's Scott Shields, on Monterey Artist Armin Hansen, scheduled to open in January 2015.


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