By Bridgette Waldau
Plein Air Art?
En plein air is a French expression, which means “in the open air,” and is used in the act of painting outdoors with the artist’s subject in full view. Plein Air artists reproduce the soul and essence of a landscape or subject by incorporating natural light, color and movement into their works. Artists were eager to paint outdoors and during the mid19th century working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and the Hudson River School. The high point of Plein Air art came with the emergence of Impressionism. Artists of that period included Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne and Van Gogh.
In the mid-1800s painting landscapes and other scenes on location finally became practical due to two important inventions: paints in tubes and the box easel. Before using paint in tubes, painters made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with various oils, a process that was more practical to do in an artist’s studio.
Heartland LIVING October November 2015
The invention of the box easel, also known as the “French Easel,” included telescopic legs for easy setup and a compartment for carrying paints, brushes, palette and other supplies. It is not clear who developed it first, but the portable easels made the journey into the woods, along the water and up hillsides much easier. Box easels are still a popular choice of artists today since they fold up to the size of a brief case and are easy to store and transport. Finally, the later introduction of canvas panels (canvas stretched over flat boards) made it possible for artists to easily carry all of their equipment and supplies to outdoor locations. The popularity of outdoor painting has endured throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century and has seen a resurgence of interest in Plein Air painting in the United States. Groups of Plein Air artists began gathering together to paint at single locations or within certain geographic boundaries. These “Paint Outs” are now very popular and give artists a chance to share their talents and creativity with the public and with one another. Here in Florida, Plein Air art groups have many beautiful landscapes and unique outdoor subject matter to paint and it is not difficult for artists to find a Plein Air group near their home. There are many organizations that can connect an artist to Plein Air groups. One popular Florida organization and resource is Plein Air Florida. Plein Air Florida began with two Florida painters from Gainesville and is a network of Florida artists who paint on location. On their website, www.pleinairflorida. org, artists will find information on Plein Air painting events, artists, groups, exhibits, galleries and workshops. It is also
Published on Oct 5, 2015
Published on Oct 5, 2015
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