Monday, August 10, 2009

C. S. Price ~ Coastline

Born on May 11, 1874, Clayton Sumner Price spent many years as a ranch hand as his parents and eleven brothers and sisters moved throughout the western United States and Canada. They were constantly seeking better land and more opportunity. Clate, as his family and friends had called him, acquired his own land at one point but gave it to his family to be part of their holdings. During all of this time on the range, Price drew and sketched what he saw. Cows, horses, the landscape. When he was thirty-one, Colonel J. L. Torrey, impressed by Price's work, loaned him the money to go to the St. Louis School of Fine Art Price's life changed forever. After that one year of formal training, Price decided to make his living as an artist. He was largely successful becoming an illustrator when he moved to Portland and then to San Francisco. Moving again he spent nearly ten years in Monterey, California. While there he carved wooden frames for other artists' paintings, worked in the canneries, gambled and painted. Price was the happiest when he painted. Painting was his life.

Coastline, like The Willow Tree, was painted during this transitional period in Price's life. Monterey, California has one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Here Price has captured its rugged majesty with tugged areas of impasto, applying layer upon layer of paint. His trademark palette knife applications and removal of paint define the coast, the rugged shoreline, the trees and lone structure. Bold colors predominate. Price had seen the art of Derain and Matisse at an exhibition in the San Francisco Civic Auditorium the year before. Their work deeply affected him. R. V. Howard, one of his friends, remembers seeing his work at the end of 1923 just after Price had seen the show in San Francisco. "...when I came back at Christmas he had one or two paintings in a new and quite abstract style. 'How did you come to paint like that?' I asked him. Responding like a seasoned formalist, Price replied, "One day...I was setting up a canvas when I thought a big splotch of red would look nice on it. So I brushed on some red. Then I put some other colors beside it––no particular shape––but some of the shapes would just happen to look like something. One patch of color would be a house––another might look like a cow. I would leave them. People ask me why I paint like that. I don't know. I just like it."

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