Edgar Payne ( 1882-1947), noted for his murals and landscape, studied briefly at the Art Institute of Chicago but maintained that he was self-taught as a painter. He acquired an early love for mountains while growing up in Washburn, Missouri, in the Ozarks, and decided at a young age that he wanted to be an artist. When his parents disapproved of his ambitions, Payne left home at age fourteen to go to Chicago, where he worked as a house painter and scenic painter for stage productions.
Payne first visited Laguna Beach in 1911, then returned to live there permanently in 1917. He was particularly instrumental in founding the Laguna Beach Art Association, serving as its first president and helping to encourage the recognition and growth of the Laguna Beach art colony. Payne's views on art and landscape painting were published in his book Composition of Outdoor Painting, published in 1941. His wife, Elsie Palmer Payne ( 1884-1971), was an accomplished painter, teacher and lecturer on art.
George Gardner Symons ( 1862-1930), one of the early resident artists of Laguna Beach, was a diverse painter who moved easily from depicting winter scenes in New England to colorful landscapes on the Southern California coast. Born in Chicago, Symons studied in Paris, Munich and London before returning to Chicago and working as a commercial artist in the early 1880s. He visited California in 1884, then returned in the 1890s and established a studio at Laguna Beach. Many of Symons' paintings of the Laguna Beach area feature hillside views, orchard settings, and what one critic called "splendidly daring marines." 9
William Wendt ( 1865-1946), one of California's most noted early Impressionists, was born in Germany and immigrated with his family to Chicago in 1980. He studied briefly in evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago but was self-taught as a painter. Historian Barbara Bowman said Wendt, although nationally recognized through exhibitions, "was regarded as the dean of Southern California artists." 10 Writer Joachim Smith described Wendt as an artist who "understood the power of color," particularly "the clear, uncompromised green of mid-winter." 11 Wendt visited Southern California in 1894, and moved there just after the turn of the century, opening a studio in Los Angeles and then a second studio at Laguna Beach in 1912. He moved permanently to Laguna Beach in the 1920s. His wife, Julia Bracken Wendt ( 1871-1942), also was an artist, achieving recognition for her sculptures.