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Payne historian Scott A. Shields wrote, “Payne, therefore, like other artists, aimed to preserve what he could of California’s beauty – on canvas if not in reality. The Sierra scenes that he chose to depict were thus an escape from industrialization, development, and a burgeoning population. He portrayed not California’s rapidly changing built environment but the unpopulated and untrammeled Eden of pure nature and wilderness. He also tried to live his aesthetic by communing with nature as often as possible.… Payne’s excursions into the vastness of the Sierra far exceed the travels of most Californians. He depicted the highest locales with the clearest water, the most unblemished terrain, and the purest, most ultra crystalline light as if he were recording these settings for posterity.… In part for this reason, Payne included human beings in relatively few of his California paintings, and when he did so they were typically shown in harmony with nature, a minor footprint in the landscape.”

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