Plein Air

En Plein Aire: Definition & History

Ron painting in plein air

I often do a small study first to get the general concept, composition and color masses before beginning the larger painting. That is why I have both a plein air panel holder and stretched canvas before me in this photo.

Simply stated, it is the art of painting directly from nature. The artist responds with quick and spontaneous brush strokes to capture the true effects of color and light

Painting outdoors started in the late 1700’s. Landscape painters in France began taking their oil paints to the field in pig bladders. And by the 1840s, collapsible tin tubes were being introduced by Winsor and Newton. It was about this time that Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) started the Impressionists group.

By 1869 Monet and Renoir were using portable easels and traveling paintboxes. They painted rapid studies in free sketchy brushwork, attempting to capture fleeting moments. Although methods and palettes were to change considerably in the following decades, the basis for outdoor painting techniques were firmly established.

Today, many think of Impressionism as a single style. A closer look reveals that each artist develops his own unique way of seeing. This creates a rich diversity of styles with one common theme: truth to nature.


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