Plein-air painting

DEFINITION

Derived from the French word "en plein aire," the term means painting in the open air and not in the studio. It first came into general use in the mid 19th century in France when landscape painters at Barbizon, a village near Paris, used the method for their depictions of the landscape. Shortly after that, it was adopted by the French Impressionists led by Camille Pisarro and Claude Monet. The method was facilitated by newly developed oil paint that was sold in tubes, which meant it did not dry out quickly and could be easily transported. Plein-air painting was a major break in tradition from the prevalent method of working only in studios. Plein-air painting can be traced back to the seventh century and forward for about two-hundred years when European artists did outdoor sketches to sharpen their skills but not for exhibition. In 1630 engravings were done in Europe that show artists working in the open air. Also an illustrated catalogue titled "A Brush With Nature: The Gere Collection of Landsape Oil Sketches" refers to the painting in nature of Salvator Rosa (1615-1673). Plein Air oil painting evolved into fully finished paintings with Frenchman Claude Lorraine 1600-1682 and then moved forward through the Barbizon School and Impressionists.In the United States and Canada, plein-air painting was practiced by the first-generation of American impressionists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. William Merritt Chase opened the first organized school of landscape painting at Shinnecock on Long Island. The method also took hold in a major way in Southern California from the time of the state's first Impressionist landscape painters including Guy Rose. In that warm climate combined with bright sunlit days and diverse mountain, water and land views, Plein-Air painting was popular. Sources: "Plein Air Magazine", November 2004; William Gerdts, "American Impressionism" (LPD)

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