Just in time, we visited today an excellent exhibition of a collection of paintings by California landscape artist Edgar Payne (1883 – 1947) at a nearby jewel, The Crocker Art Museum.
The Crocker recently finished a renovation that includes this building addition that houses early California and modern art, including glass, ceramic and sculptures. There is a separate floor dedicated to Oceanic and African art.
On the 3rd floor past this glass sculpture (I believe it is called Ruby Spirits), you will find the exhibit, Edward Payne: The Scenic Journey” (Feb. 11 – May 6, 2012) and this is precisely what I came for. It includes paintings featuring Payne’s favorite subjects in nature like the California Sierra Nevada Mountains, the desert Southwest, and Europe including the Alps, Swiss lakes and villages, and boat and harbors in Brittany and Venice.
Sunset, Canyon de Chelly, oil on canvas
Payne is called “one of the most gifted of California’s early plein-air artists”. Drifting in and out of the galleries, it’s undeniable that his free and visible brushstrokes in the impressionist style stand out but the subject is not what one considers “impressionist.” Rather than a lady’s delicate bonnet or a Monet waterlily, his subjects are rugged, grand scenes, like Southwest Canyons, Sierra mountains, the Alps including Mont Blanc, Swiss villages and pristine lakes which he painted with a perfect balance of color, shadow and natural light. Interestingly, I read that he preferred painting the Sierra Nevada mountains because they offered more colors such as red and green as opposed to the characteristic uniform slate gray of the Alps.
Naturally, I lingered the longest in the gallery featuring paintings of traditional boats and harbors in France and Italy. I read that he only visited Europe twice but that he brought back with him photos to finish many of his works.
Breton Tuna Boats, Concarneau, France (1924) is one of my favorite paintings from the exhibit. The longer you view it, the bigger the sensation of waves and boats bringing you in and out of the painting. You can almost hear the water. The chalk-like colors he used are soothing, beautiful and vibrant – turquoise blue, terracotta orange and whites.
Edgar Payne traveled the world – the Southern and Central California coast, the Sierra, the Swiss Alps, the harbors and waterways of France and Italy, and the desert Southwest – to find magnificent landscapes to paint. For anyone who loves to travel and is drawn to natural beauty, these paintings by Edgar Payne will take you there and make you appreciate all that cameras still cannot do.
The Crocker Art Museum’s new addition of modern and California art couldn’t be a better place to enjoy it.
Payne Image credits: Traditional Fine Arts Organization