Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947)
Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947)

Riders in Canyon de Chelly

Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947)
Riders in Canyon de Chelly
signed 'Edgar Payne' (lower right)
oil on canvas laid down on board
28 x 34 in. (71.1 x 86.4 cm.)
The artist.
Earl C. Strebe, Palm Springs, California, acquired from the above, circa 1930s.
By descent to the present owner.

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Lot Essay

Riders in Canyon de Chelly emphasizes the rhythm of space, form, color, and light in a decidedly modern treatment, a hallmark of Edgar Payne's best work. Always thoroughly conscious of composition, Payne has concentrated his figures together in the lower right portion of the canvas to emphasize the enormity of the Southwestern landscape. In discussing another work from the period, author Rena Coen comments, "but it is not so much about the light that dominates this composition as the steady rhythm of the scene, creating a clear, visual unity between the near rock masses and the farther ones fading in steady cadence into the subtle lavender blues of the distance. Edgar instinctively recognized the elemental human need for organizing rhythm in pictorial composition and he compared its function in painting to music and dance." (The Paynes: Edgar and Elsie, American Artists, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1988, p. 67)

Contrasted against the weight of this dominating landscape, billowing clouds rise up beyond the physical limits of the canvas edge to create a rhythmic presence of an almost abstract color-field design. A heavy shadow occupies the foreground of the valley lending a sense of further movement to the overall landscape as the riders gently pass through the scene approaching the viewer. While emphasizing the seemingly infinite landscape of the American west, Payne's work also serves as a thoughtful and genuine depiction of the Native American in their natural setting, a frontier that was witnessing rapid change.

The present painting originally belonged to Earl C. Strebe, a friend of the artist and owner of the historic Plaza Theatre in Palm Springs, California. Mr. Strebe was instrumental in originally attracting the leading talent of the day to the theater, including playing host to film premieres, radio broadcasts of Bob Hope and Jack Benny, live performances by the likes of Frank Sinatra and more recently the Fabulous Palm Spring Follies.

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