For Day #44 of the 365 Days of Art, I present Grayson Sayre (1879-1939). He was one of California’s most beloved desert landscape painters.
Five things about Sayre.
- He was born in Medoc, Missouri. He worked in the mines and then with leather goods before he decided to push on to become an artist. He was mostly self-taught as he only had a few months of art training, from the talented portraitist J. Laurie Wallace from Omaha, Nebraska.
- Sayre moved to Chicago (after working as an engraver in Houston, Texas) because was accepted into The Palette and Chisel Club. In 1915, Sayre became ill with diphtheria and his doctors only gave him a few months to live. Doctors encouraged Sayre to move to California to help his body heal – thinking that maybe the dry desert air would be good for him (it was). Barbara Harmon noted that Sayre spent two years healing in that desert: “He didn’t paint at all. He just rested under the palm trees and looked out at the desert. When he got his strength back he began painting and kept on for 25 years. He knew the desert so well in all its moods that it was a part of his consciousness.”
- In 1916, Sayre traveled by train through the Southwest and he was moved by desert landscapes (like our dear Georgia O’Keeffe). From 1919 to 1922, Sayre lived and painted in Arizona, also making money as a bookkeeper for a mining company
- In 1922, Sayre moved back to California, and settled down in Glendale, CA where he painted the landscapes of the West and had some popularity. Ana Japenga, from The California Desert Art Blog HERE, referred to Sayre as one of “the most elegant of the California desert painters.” Japenga also has some great info about Sayre and a photo of his daughter, Barbara.
My favorite thing about Sayre’s work is his use of color. I discovered one of his Covered Wagon prints and I could not stop looking at it. I am not really drawn to this ‘desert history’ subject, but the brilliant painting had me looking and looking in a haunting good way.
Sayre’s color combines with his skill for showing movement and action. However, what I found so delightful was his use of purple and periwinkle blue in the landscape. Delightful is the only word that comes to mind – the colors gave it this warm and lively energy – that reflected the artist’s flair. I have since learned that Sayre’s Covered Wagon piece might be his most famous piece and it is definitely one of the most reproduced.
After I soaked up the Covered Wagon piece (at a local store that sells used books and sometimes misc. art) – I went back one day later to buy it (it was priced low), but it was long gone. I was not sad because I did not really want it, I was just going to save it and then give it to someone who liked this genre and who needed an amazing piece of art. I did not mind it being gone… – but whew, it was one of the nicest paintings I have seen in a while and I hope someone is enjoying it.
Do you like the Covered Wagon painting? Is this your type of genre? And hearing about Sayre’s close call with diphtheria reminds me yet again how setbacks shape us and can lead to our niche.
Sayre has used his art to preserve the California landscape – adding rich bits of history and tale – in a way that has gripped people from around the world – but if he never became sick, he never would have found his desert passion. We might have had other genres from him, but maybe not. Maybe it took this healing experience for Sayre to grow with…. So let’s keep this in mind with detours, setbacks, close calls, curve balls, etc. Everything happens for a reason and good things are in store.
Have a nice day. 🙂