Elsie Palmer Payne

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Elsie Palmer Payne was born September 9, 1884 in San Antonio, Texas and was the youngest of 8 children. The Palmer family moved to San Francisco in 1889 where her father worked in real estate and her mother taught classes in art and music. At an early age, Payne was strongly influenced by art. After she graduated from high school in San Francisco, she attended the Best Art School there for her formal art training from 1903-1905. She pursued a classical curriculum starting with drawing from antique casts, life drawing, and the use of color. During and after her studies, she worked in advertising as a commercial artist from 1904-1907. In 1909, she met Edgar Payne in San Francisco and married him when she took a trip to Chicago in November 1912.

The couple lived in Chicago for five years where Elsie would assist Edgar with his mural commissions. She was the better half at figure drawing and would draw the figures while he painted them. Her work was similar to the style of American Illustration at the turn of the century and relied on lines and strong bold colors that focused on emotional appeal and decoration.

Moving to Laguna Beach in 1918, both Elsie and Edgar Payne were founding members of the Laguna Beach Art Association. In the small museum that the association maintained, Payne regularly exhibited her works. The Payne family traveled to Europe in 1922-24 where she modeled and sketched wherever they went and created works that captured the characters of the local people and environment. Her return to Europe found the family moving from coast to coast, and eventually settling in California.

Elsie and Edgar separated in 1932. She then began to focus on oils and depicting local urban Los Angeles scenes. She showed at other venues such as the Woman Painters of the West where she was a founding member, and the California Art Club. In June 1934, Elsie opened the Art School and Gallery in Beverly Hills and began to offer classes. Her school closed down in 1946 when Edgar was diagnosed with cancer. He died one year later in 1947 and Payne focused all her energies in propagating his memory and his artwork. During this period, her artwork was mostly exhibited alongside Edgar’s as a joint exhibition. A year after whirlwind exhibitions, in 1948, Payne earned enough from her teaching and the sale of her and Edgar’s paintings to buy a triangular shaped plot of land in which she would build her home. She continued to paint and served a term as president in the Los Angeles chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters.

As her health and eyesight began to fail her, Payne moved to Minneapolis in 1969 to be with her daughter Evelyn. Here, she established the Payne Studios, Inc. to conserve her and Edgar’s artwork.

Elsie Palmer Payne passed away on June 17, 1971.

Member: National Association of Women Painters & Sculptors; Women Painters of the West (cofounder); Laguna Beach Art Association (cofounder); California Watercolor Society; California Art Club; Artists of the Southwest; America Artists Professional League.

Exhibited: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1942, 1943; California Art Club, 1943; Ebell Club, Los Angeles, 1932, 1943; Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, 1948, 1949; Pasadena Art Institute, 1950; Laguna Beach Art Association, 1951.

Works Held: Laguna Museum.

Hughes, Edan M. Artists In California 1786-1940. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Sacramento: Crocker, Art Museum, 2002. N. pag. 2 vols. Print.
Elsie Palmer Payne by Jean Stern and Evelyn Payne Hatcher. Print.
Coen, Rena N. "The Paynes Edgar & Elsie American Artists". Print.