MOV File
Online Collections

C.S. Price

American, 1874-1950


Bedford May 11, 1874




Portland May 1, 1950

Occupation or Type


Northwest artist

Oregon artist


C.S. Price was a gentle man, reclusive by nature, who had an immeasurable effect on the artists of his time and on the tradition of Western art. Born the third of thirteen children in Bedford, Iowa in 1874, Price’s family progressively moved west, buying and tending range cattle. As a young man, his ability to draw and carve attracted the attention of a wealthy cattleman who agreed to finance a year of art school in St. Louis. After this training, Price returned to Wyoming, repaid the debt and homesteaded. By 1908 his mother had died and he joined his father and family in Alberta, Canada. Having decided to pursue an artistic career, in 1909 Price moved to Portland and became an illustrator for The Pacific Monthly, which later merged with Sunset. His years of experience on the range gave him first-hand knowledge of the horse and cowboy subjects that he helped popularize.

A trip to California in 1915, including a visit to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, was his first exposure to Modern Art. He decided this was what he wanted to do. He moved to Monterey, California, rented space in the Stevenson House and sold his paintings. He became known as one of the early modernists and experimented with innovative ways to paint. He was often dissatisfied with much of his work; for each canvas completed, five or six were painted over or scraped off. In 1928 he returned to Portland and remained there until his death in 1950.

During the decade of the 1930s Price was an active participant in the Government's Federal Art Project. He was the first artist on the rolls in Region 16 (Portland). In less than a year he had completed eight large paintings, and later, murals. Timberline Lodge displays the murals, Huckleberry Pickers and Pack Train. The Multnomah County Library in Portland includes Indians and Pioneers in its collection.

Around 1940, when Price was sixty-six, there was a change in his style and motivation. The artist searched for a way to use increasingly abstract painting as a vehicle for spiritual development. Animal subjects remained, but they became translucent to allow the spirit to appear from behind the form. Where details were lacking, the essence remained.

His national reputation continued to grow, but Price avoided the limelight. He refused exhibition commitments and insisted that he be able to sell works to friends. He never accepted students, but his influence on other artists was great: Rockwell Carey, William Hayes, Charles Heaney, Howard Sewell, and Amanda Snyder, among many others. Snyder's son Eugene wrote a poignant account of his impressions of Price. His death in 1950 prompted the Portland Art Museum and the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis to mount a joint exhibition and publish a catalog of C.S. Price’s work. It brought together 543 works from 117 owners. Since there was little documentation during Price's life, this was finally an opportunity to date and catalog the work; many friends and family members assisted in the process. One of Oregon's most significant artists, his view of the West helped shape America's view of the West as well.

Artist biography reproduced with permission from the authors, Oregon Painters: the First Hundred Years (1859-1959), Ginny Allen and Jody Klevit.



Related People

Associate of: Darrel Austin (American, 1907-1994)

Rockwell W. Carey (American, 1882-1954)

Associate of: Robert Galaher (American, 1919-1974)

Charles Heaney (American, 1897-1981)

Associate of: Amanda Snyder (American, 1894-1980)

Related Terms
Related Artworks
IMLS logoNEA logoNEH logo

The Portland Art Museum’s Online Collections site is brought to you thanks to support provided by the State of Oregon through its second Culture, History, Arts, Movies, and Preservation funding program and generous awards from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts.