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Charles Payzant (American 1898 – 1980)

Ghost Town, c. late 1940s, watercolor on paper, signed lower right, 22 x 14 ½ inches, signed lower right, titled verso, together with the designation “#3A” and “Virginia City” (lined out); possibly exhibited at Payzant’s one-person show at White’s Art Store, Montrose California, in 1950 (see Art Calendar, Mirror News (Los Angeles), June 10, 1950, “Charles Payzant, California water colorist, is exhibiting his first new one-man show in two years at White’s in Montrose. The subjects of the twenty paintings on display range from bathers to California landscapes, harbor scenes, Virginia City and Chinatown.”)


About the Painting

Ghost Town is a classic work by Charles Payzant. In reviewing a 1931 exhibition of Payzant’s paintings, the Riverside Daily Press noted, “Mr. Payzant uses color freely and in combining color with black produces striking effect.” Likely painted in the following decade, Ghost Town has the striking luminosity of the type described in the Riverside Daily Press review. Payzant produced this effect through the careful layering of a wide range of pigments. Drawing on his Hollywood experience, Payzant used dark, opaque umbers, siennas, and blacks to contrast with more translucent, lighter tones which seem to glow. The work is dramatic and cinematic, almost as if we are watching the beginning of an animated film.

About the Artist

Los Angeles-based Charles Payzant was a prominent watercolorist, working in both fine and commercial art. He was educated initially at the Victoria School of Art (Halifax, Canada). After serving in World War I and moving to Los Angeles, Payzant continued his studies at the Chouinard Art Institute and the Otis Art Institute. He was a member of the American Watercolor Society and the California Watercolor Society. Payzant exhibited widely and won several prizes during the 1930s and 1940s. Payzant worked as a freelance commercial artist and for twelve years at the Disney Studios, where he contributed backgrounds to classic films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Three Caballeros, and Fantasia among others. He was a close associate of Hardie Gramatky. After World War II, Payzant worked as an illustrator for children’s books, while also continuing to paint California-style watercolors well into the 1970s. He is listed in Who was Who in American Art and other standard references.


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