En plein air

En plein air

Artist working en plein air, at Pigeon Point Lighthouse in California.
En plein air painters painting in Ringwood, New Jersey.
Painters gathered at Slide Rock State Park, Arizona, in 2006.

En plein air (French pronunciation: ​) is a French expression which means "in the open air" and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors, which is also called peinture sur le motif ("painting on the ground") in French. It can also be used to describe other activities where a person partakes in an outdoor environment.

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, painters made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil. The Newlyn School in England is considered another major proponent of the technique in the latter 19th century.[1]

It was during this period that the "Box Easel", typically known as the French Box Easel or field 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.[2]

French Arthur Hill Gilbert. The Canadian Group of Seven and Tom Thomson are examples of en plein air advocates.

The popularity of outdoor painting has endured throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century.[3][4]

Notable associated artists

See also


  1. ^ "Newlyn School, Landscape Painting Artist Colony, Cornwall: History, Artists, Stanhope Forbes, Frank Bramley". Visual-arts-cork.com. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "Plein Air". PBS. 6 August 2007. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  3. ^ "Artists who work 'en plein air' share their motivations: Arts". adn.com. 6 June 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  4. ^ "Plein Air Painting - Painting Outside Plein Air". Painting.about.com. 16 August 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons