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Artifacts of History

Edgar Alwin Payne - First Lake (Big Pine, Inyo County, CA) 25" x 30"

Edgar Alwin Payne - First Lake (Big Pine, Inyo County, CA) 25" x 30"

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Edgar Alwin Payne (American, 1883-1947)
First Lake (Big Pine, Inyo County, California), n.d.

Oil on canvas
Canvas: 25” x 30”
Frame: 35” x 45”

Signed Lower Left: EDGAR PAYNE

Alongside dramatic depictions of the Desert Southwest, Payne is best known for his broad panoramas of California’s Eastern Sierras. In a 1927 review of Payne’s work at the Ambassador Hotel’s Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles Times critic Fred S. Hogue dubbed the artist “God of the Mountains.” The present work, boasting an expansive view of Inyo County’s Inconsolable Range, is a site and subject to which Payne returned countless times throughout the latter half of his career.

Executed en plein air, glacier-scored mountains rise triumphantly above First Lake, its emerald-green water the result of silt runoff from the range's toothy peaks. The Sierras are rendered in confident, staccato brushstrokes, and in a tapestry of pink, gray, and blue. One of the mountain's faces, submerged in shadow, showcases Payne's ability to manipulate and modulate tone, though he was largely self-taught. A grove of hearty pines–the region's namesake–dots the valley floor below.

 One of the foremost Impressionists of his generation, Payne deployed light and color to tremendous advantage –here, in a celebration of an unpeopled, untrammeled wilderness. His simplified compositions, limited palette, and inviting perspectives belie his technical acuity, while his decades-long commitment to the Sierras speaks to an appreciation for awe-inspiring landscapes that are uniquely Californian.

William A. Karges Fine Art, Carmel, California.
The Estate of Mary L. Means, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Private Utah collection

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