Born in Washburn, Missouri, Edgar Payne became one of the foremost plein-air landscape painters of California in the early 20th century. He is best known for his majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain scenes and depicted so many Indians on horseback riding through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that a mountain lake was named for him.
He left home at age 14 and earned money painting houses and stage sets. He traveled through the Ozarks and Mexico and was self-taught except for a brief period at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1909, he first visited California and painted Laguna Beach and San Francisco.
In 1912, he married artist Elsie Palmer, and in 1917, the Santa Fe Railroad commissioned him to paint the Southwest. The couple spent four months in Canyon de Chelly, landscape that became his main theme in the 1920s and 30s. They also traveled and sketched the Grand Canyon and in New Mexico.
He returned to San Francisco in 1917 to do an 11,000 square foot mural commission for the Chicago owned Congress Hotel. A year later, he and Elsie established a home in Laguna Beach, and he became the first president of the Art Association there. They also spent several years, 1922 to 1924, in Europe and continued to maintain a winter residence in New York City. The couple separated in 1932, but she returned to live with him towards the end of his life when he was ill.
He was a member of the Salmagundi Club in New York and the California Art Club. His work is held in numerous collections including the Chicago Art Museum, the Laguna Art Museum, the University of Nebraska Galleries, and the Fleischer Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"