Outdoor Painting (en plein air)
Outdoor painting often referred to as En Plein Air is a French expression for “in the open air”.
En Plein Air or Plein Air painting (better known as Outdoor Painting) is a popular Art practice since 19th century. John Constable (1776-1837), one of the pioneering artists of landscape painting, started painting outdoors in 1813 (Tate), capturing the scenic views of his English Countryside.
Plein Air painting reached its height with the introduction of impressionism by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro whose works were painted from the start to its finishing touch completely outdoors. Claude Monet created twenty-six pieces of Rouen Cathedral at different times of the day to capture the varying lighting conditions.
Fig. 1 & 2 - Rouen Cathedral, West Facade by Claude Monet
In the past, artists had to go through the tedious process of making their own paint by grinding colour pigments with linseed oil. Prior to the Impressionist period, paints have become readily available in tubes in 1870, which give artists the convenience to create their painting completely in the open setting. That brought about change in the stylistic and liberal approach to how one paints as opposed to the studio's academic way of painting.
The beauty of outdoor painting is an unexpected play of light and shadow, which is not predetermined by the Artist unlike indoor painting in a studio setting, where the lighting and set up are planned according to the painter’s work of composition. This form of painting allows one to move beyond the four walls and the institutionalised approach in painting a subject.
For more information on En Plein Air or outdoor painting classes, speak to our Art Education Specialists.
Tate. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/plein-air
Monet, C. Rouen Cathedral, West Facade. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
Monet, C. Rouen Cathedral, West Facade with Sunlight. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.