Edgar Payne was born in Washburn, Missouri. He left home at 14 with one burning goal--to become a painter. Although he attended the Art Institute of Chicago for a short time, he was largely self-taught. In 1911 Payne first visited California where he first gazed upon state's broad vistas he would ultimately immortalize on canvas. In 1919 he moved to California permanently where he founded and became the first president of the Laguna Beach Art Association.
Payne was a master of diverse techniques and media. During his career his talents would range from house and sign painting to exquisite portraits and murals. His best known works range from picturesque European harbors to the spectacular vistas of the American west.
He traveled extensively throughout his career, spending much time in Europe where he developed a strong affinity for painting the picturesque fishing ports along the Brittany coast. It was written of him "no other painter would travel further or surmount more obstacles to bring together in a single collection canvases from so many parts of America and Europe".