is a French expression which means “in the open air”, and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. but in the late 1800s when the Impressionists ventured out of their studios into nature to investigate and capture the effects of sunlight and different times of days on a subject, it was quite revolutionary.
Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and Impressionism. The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paints in tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes). Previously, each painter made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil.
It was during this period that the “Box Easel”, typically known as the French Box Easel, was invented. It is uncertain who developed it first, but these highly portable easels, with telescopic legs and built-in paint box and palette, made treks into the forest and up the hillsides less onerous. Still made today, they remain a popular choice even for home use since they fold up to the size of a brief case and thus are easy to store.
French Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir advocated en plein air painting, and much of their work was done outdoors, in the diffuse light provided by a large white umbrella. American Impressionists, too, such as those of the Old Lyme school, were avid painters en plein air. American Impressionist painters noted for this style during this era included, Guy Rose, Robert William Wood, Mary Denil Morgan, John Gamble, and Arthur Hill Gilbert. The Canadian Group of Seven and Tom Thomson are examples of plein air advocates.
Halloween pumpkins – 11 x 15 watercolour, unframed
Malden Park – unframed 11 x 15 – $200