I’ve just learned that Evelyn Payne Hatcher, born January 12, 1914 in Chicago, passed away on February 16, 2009 at Rosewood Estates in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was 95. Evelyn was the only daughter of Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947) and Elsie Palmer Payne (1884-1971), both well known California artists. I had the great fortune to meet this wonderful lady at her home in Minneapolis, MN; three times, actually. The first time, at her invitation, I flew to Minnesota in January 2001 and interviewed her for the California Art Club (this interview became the cover article of the June 2001 issue of the California Art Club Newsletter). This was extremely convenient as I could stay with my grandparents, who lived only 10 minutes away. Evelyn had many records and scrapbooks from the lives of both of her parents, some of their artwork, and generously answered my many questions. She had lots of great stories of early life in Laguna, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara and the colorful characters that inhabited the artist colonies. Evelyn always had a quick wit, something in the vein of Mark Twain; once, after I introduced my family who were in town to her, she later remarked “I was happy to meet your parents. You chose nice ones.” I took her out to dinner one cold winter night for her birthday, which my trip coincided with. I remember she lamented the cold Minnesota winter; compared to California, the growing season for her flowers was much inhibited. We became friends, corresponding through email and letters, and on a cross-country painting trip in January 2002 I met her at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a favorite spot of hers, where we spent some time looking through the collection.
Though an accomplished artist herself (she had some of her own paintings up at her house, and even gave me a critique or two of my own work), she told me that after growing up with such famous parents she tended to look for something a little different.
So she became interested in Anthropology and Art History, in particular American Indian art (Navajo), a good fit for someone of her background and knowledge (Evelyn earned a doctoral degree in anthropology from U of MN in 1953). Among her accomplishments as an author are two books, Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art, and The Drawings of Edgar Payne 1883-1947,; she also edited, updated and re-released her father’s famous book Composition of Outdoor Painting for multiple printings (currently 7th edition). One of her good friends was Rena Neumann Coen, mother of the Coen Brothers of film fame. Both women taught at St. Cloud University (Evelyn was a Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at St. Cloud and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota), and Mrs. Coen wrote a book titled The Paynes – Edgar and Elsie, American Artists.
Evelyn donated several paintings by her parents to the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (“Canyon Portal,” by Edgar Payne, which used to hang over Evelyn’s fireplace), ensuring the work for future generations.
Coincidentally, a few weeks ago I was reminded of the fact that I had tape-recorded my 2001 interview with Evelyn and decided to see if I could find the tape. I did, and have started to transcribe it. I haven’t gotten very far into it yet, but I can picture myself sitting again at her kitchen table drinking tea, snow piled high outside, her stories making that long-gone era seem like just yesterday.