A leading-edge modernist painter on the West Coast during the last 30 years of his life, Clayton Price was a homesteader and cowhand of the American West during the first 30 years.
"The colorful modernism of his Monterey paintings evolved into a boldly sculptural style, often with muted, serene colors and images of animals or farming and ranching work. During the 1930s, he completed an impressive series of monumental paintings for the Public Works of Art Project and the Federal Art Projects, including those that are now in Timberline Lodge, the Multnomah County Library, Pendleton High School, and the Portland Art Museum.
In 1942, the Portland Art Museum gave Price his first retrospective exhibition, which attracted national attention. In 1946, his work was represented in the Museum of Modern Art’s “Fourteen Americans” exhibition, which introduced Price, Mark Tobey, Arshile Gorky, and Robert Motherwell to the New York art world. Museums began to acquire Price’s work—among them the Seattle, Portland, and Brooklyn art museums, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Detroit Art Institute.
In his seventies, Price’s work became more daring than ever. He had developed an expressionist style that featured images that he seemed to find during the process of painting, scraping away, and then repainting his canvases. Price began a painting by laying some colors down, which he worked and scumbled about in an abstract manner without a preconceived image in mind. As the paint dried, he would scrape part of it off and add a new layer on top of the old, which he would work and then partially scrape away. He repeated this process until the rough, scumbled surfaces and broken colors that had built up on the canvas suggested an image of a pair of animals or a landscape or a biblical scene that he would then develop with great freedom and originality. The act of painting had become a meditation for Price, his way of participating in the one big thing.
C.S. Price may be Oregon’s most important and influential painter. While he was nationally known in the 1940s, the art world changed dramatically after his death in 1950 and his relatively small body of work has often been overlooked. But he has never been forgotten, especially by painters who find meaning and inspiration in his work and in the model of his life." --Roger Saydack