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According to Payne biographer Nancy Moure, “Mixed with his Sierra excursions Payne also made a number of sketching trips to the Grand Canyon, Canyon De Chelley [sic] and other spots in New Mexico and Arizona. One assumes Payne’s interest in the dry terrain of the Southwest was inspired by the work of fellow Southern California artists such as Conrad Buff (who helped Payne on the Congress Hotel murals in 1917) or Jimmy Swinnerton, or Frank Tenney Johnson (whose works Payne reproduced in his treatise). No doubt the stark mesas, buttes and canyons were a near-at-hand exotic treasurehouse that had the elements of bigness which Payne sought and was so successful at translating onto canvas.

“In any case, he produced a number of works portraying Indians riding through the Southwestern terrain. Sometimes these traversed a flat desert spread over by a vast sky full of magnificent clouds … At other times Indians ride through narrow canyons sided by sheer vertical sandstone cliffs. Totally different in palette from his other themes, these works have a unity within themselves – of color and spirit. Payne’s talent enabled him to project the vastness of the Southwest. He records the silence of the weather-shaped and striped monuments and magnifies their immensity by comparing them to man.”

Fred Rosenstock, Denver, Colorado
Wolfgang H. Pogzeba, Taos, New Mexico, ca. 1975
Private collection, by descent
Private collection, Colorado

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