Canyon gateway signed 'Edgar Payne' (lower right) and titled 'Canyon Gateway' (on the reverse) oil on canvas 28 1/4 x 34 1/4in overall: 38 1/4 x 44 1/4in
PROVENANCE: With Edenhurst Gallery, Palm Desert, California Private collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico
In Canyon gateway, Edgar Payne's powers as a master of composition and color are on ready display. As Peter Hasrick writes in Edgar Payne: A Scenic Journey, the artist was drawn to depictions of scale and color: "So combined, his attraction to grand scale or "bigness," and his devotion to "beauty," or what color and light can do to visually enhance mass, exposed his artistic strategy." p.182. A number of Payne's stratagems were necessary for the daunting task of depicting the immensity of the Navajo environment. He crafts the sun-baked red rock walls with bright salmon highlights on the right side of the picture. The left side and center of the picture contrast with cool blue and purple shadows with the occasional splash of salmon. The Navajos make their way out of the canyon positioned between green highlights which run in a horizontal band on the painting. These diminutive riders and their abrupt shadows give the eye a moment of intimacy despite being under a bright blue sky with scattered boldly painted white clouds. As Hasrick observes in other paintings of the area, Payne uses the Navajo as compositional devices to counterbalance the prominent geology of the canyon. The energy in Payne's brushwork makes the clouds feel still but not static and this is only successful because the Navajos scale in the painting makes their movement insignificant. The sheer grandeur of the canyon is almost hard to fathom but Payne succeeds in forcing an understanding and appreciation of nature's magnificent architecture.