Plein Air Painting – A Loyally Following, Then and Now

Plein air artists strive to capture the spirit and essence of a landscape or subject before them.

Artists have long painted outdoors, but in France during the mid-19th century, working in natural light became more popular and particularly important to various schools and movements. With this interest and support, Plein Air painting began to gather its first loyal followers. Plein air painting is a French expression meaning “in the open air,” and refers to the act of painting outdoors. The term described artists such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Degas, who began creating their work outdoors. Since then, the term plein air has been used to describe people who paint outside. Using an outdoor easel, paints, and brushes, plein air artists strive to capture the spirit and essence of a landscape or subject before them.

The imagery is often distilled, infusing it with an energy and sense of spontaneity, not always seen in works created and finished in a studio setting.

Claude_Monet_-_In_the_Woods_at_Giverny-_Blanche_Hoschedé_at_Her_Easel_with_Suzanne_Hoschedé_Reading__Los Angeles County Museum of Art LA CA.jpg
In the Woods at Giverny -Blanche Hoschedé at Her Easel with Suzanne Hoschedé Reading by Claude Monet – courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California

Monet, seen as a founder of French Impressionist painting, is known for his love of working outdoors, surrounded by gardens and everchanging, natural light. Monet’s friends and contemporaries even painted him painting in plein air, as can be seen in this piece by John Singer Sargent, known as the greatest society portraitist of his day.

John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood_Tate Gallery in London.png
Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood by John Singer Sargent – courtesy of Tate Gallery in London, England

Here in the United States, Winslow Homer is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th-century America and a preeminent figure in American art. He often painted outdoors while taking working vacations throughout New England.

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Artists Sketching in the White Mountains by Winslow Homer – courtesy of Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine

This vibrant style of painting is experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

Stephen Day in Maine
Judge of Awards, Stephen Day is well- known for his plein air paintings. He is represented at Sorrel Sky Gallery.

Today, plein air painting has just as loyal a following amongst painters and collectors. As it continues to experience a resurgence in popularity, more and more will have the opportunity to enjoy this vibrant style of painting. The imagery is often distilled, infusing it with an energy and sense of spontaneity, not always seen in works created and finished in a studio setting. Join us at Sorrel Sky Gallery Santa Fe as we host the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico, Santa Fe Plein Air Juried Paint Out Competition and Show. The opening reception and award presentation will take place from 5:00-7:30 pm on May 4, 2018, at the gallery’s downtown location, 125 W Palace Ave. An exhibition of award winners and other participants will continue through May 18, 2018.

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Canyon’s Edge by Stephen Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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