History

Eugene Boudin (1824-1898) is rightly considered one of the forerunners of French Impressionism, and his influence was quite direct. As Claude Monet's first teacher, he persuaded the teenager to paint en plein air. Read an excerpt of Joseph Skrapits' article on this important artist here, and read the complete article in the May, 2013 digital edition of PleinAir magazine.

In the January 2013 issue of PleinAir, art historian Laurene Buckley, Ph.D., introduces readers to the artist once called the "discoverer of Monet." Ohio-born Theodore Wendel (1859-1932) abandoned the "Munich palette of muted browns and gray-greens" and championed the "blue-green of Monet's Impressionism" when he created plein air landscapes.

New England's Aldro T. Hibbard was a tough man with the charisma to lead a new and vibrant art community in Rockport, Massachusetts. Bob Bahr wrote about the legendary plein air painter for the November 2012 issue of PleinAir magazine, and we offer a portion of that article here.

One of the most flamboyant, controversial, and influential artists of the 19th century was James McNeill Whistler. The etchings he made from copper plates he drew on while strolling the streets of Venice, London, Paris, and Amsterdam became his best sources of financial support.

The National Gallery of Australia is currently presenting an exhibition of prints and paintings by Sydney Long (1871-1955), an artist known for his plein air oils and watercolors as well as the works he created in the Art Nouveau style.
Art clubs, associations, and schools have always been important to artists striving to learn, meet other artists, and gain recognition for their work. That was especially true for women artists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the painters who became known through art groups was Colorado artist Helen Henderson Chain.
A new book brings attention to one of the most important Russian portraitists and plein air landscape painters, Valentin Serov. He was strongly influenced by the French Impressionists and by his teacher Ilya Repin, and is today considered to be among the greatest painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

If you want to develop a style of bold brushwork and rich color, there is perhaps no better group of paintings to study than those created by Franz A. Bischoff. Although he was known as the "King of the Rose Painters," his landscape paintings make him a sovereign among plein air artists.

It may be hard to see the connections between 19th-century Victorian paintings and the expressive plein air paintings of the 21st century, yet Frederic Lord Leighton (1830-1896) was as passionate about outdoor painting as any artist might be today.
One of the finest collection of historic plein air paintings will highlight the 4th Master Paintings Week in London from June 29-July 6, 2012.
Historian Rick Russack wrote to us after reading the the April-May, 2012 issue of PleinAir and the “Classic Moments” feature with Eadweard Muybridge’s photograph of Albert Bierstadt painting in Yosemite Valley, California in 1872. “Several scholars believe Bierstadt was also photographed in stereo while painting in New Hampsire,” Russack revealed. We asked him to offer more information about the great plein air artist.
Sir Alfred James Munnings (1878-1959) relied on plein air paintings of horses and landscape in order to create his celebrated paintings of equestrian subjects, and he often took time to sketch his artist friends who were painting nearby. Over a period of years, he and Maurice Codner (1888-1958) often painted each other in the field or posing in the studio.
Like many women of her age, Anna Richards Brewster benefitted from increasing opportunities for women in society but she was restrained by the male domination of the art world. As the daughter of the celebrated artist William Trost Richards (1833-1905), she was encouraged to pursue her interest in portraiture and landscape painting, and she found plein air painting to be a welcome relief from the dark academic paintings of the Victorian period.
For centuries, artists created representations of Saint Luke, one of the four evangelists who was the patron saint of artists as well as physicians, surgeons, and butchers. Scholars later dismissed the idea that the Virgin Mary posed for Saint Luke, but the idea that there might be a celestial patron of plein air painters can lead to some amusing speculations.
Artists of the 16th and 17th centuries seldom painted outdoors because their supplies weren’t portable and landscapes paintings were only incidental backgrounds to their figure paintings. Nevertheless, the oil sketches that Peter Paul Rubens created to solicit commissions and to instruct his assistants have all the dynamic elements of composition, gestured brushwork, and expressiveness that are admired by contemporary plein air artists.
One of the most promising American artists who excelled at plein air landscapes and figure paintings was Dennis Miller Bunker. He was called “possibly the most gifted of the Boston painters,” and his friend John Singer Sargent wondered “if any one had a greater affection for him than I.” Nevertheless, he would have been completely forgotten were it not for the efforts of the artist R.H. Ives Gammell.
Fairfield Porter was one of the few prominent representational painters exhibiting plein air paintings in galleries and museums in the 1950s -1970s, and he nurtured the careers many younger artists who were similarly interested in landscape and figure painting. His independence and influence were made possible by his wealth and his stature as a critic and scholar.
The Newington-Cropsey Foundation in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York is dedicated to preserving and displaying the home and artwork of Jasper F. Cropsey, much of which was created on location. However, the foundation also provides educational programs dedicated to advancing and promoting the values inherent in the 19th works of Hudson River School painters like Cropsey.
Although he was blind in one eye, George Browne climbed to the 20,3230-foot summit of Mount McKinley (now Denali) in 1947 as part of a Bradford Washburn-led scientific expedition. In addition to hauling his gear and food, Browne carried canvases, brushes, paint and an easel. The Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska will be exhibiting the 23 paintings he created on location during that expedition. The show runs from February 3 through May 1, 2012.
We like to believe the great plein air painters of the past didn’t face anything like today’s struggle for recognition, slow sales in a tough economy, or bitter competition between painters; but one only has to consider the career of Albert Bierstadt to know the situation wasn’t all that different a hundred years ago.
In the 19th century, plein air painters were fearless explorers as much as they were fine artists, often risking life and limb to document the flora and fauna of undiscovered lands. That was certainly the case with Eugene von Guérard (1811–1901), one of Australia’s most renowned colonial landscape painters. A major exhibition of his work is on view at the Queensland Art Gallery in Australia through March 4, 2012.
One of the American painters to be celebrated in the forthcoming exhibition, “Americans in Florence,” is the Missouri-born artist James Carroll Beckwith (1852-1917). His portrait of William Merritt Chase will bring attention to the versatile painter of small plein air landscapes, portraits, and murals who was close friends of Chase, John Singer Sargent and Thomas Eakins. The exhibition opens at the Palazzo Stozzi in Florence, Italy on March 3, 2012 and will continue until July 15, 2012.
From December 15, 2011 through January 14, 2012, Spanierman Gallery LLC in New York City will display a group of small oil paintings and works on paper that John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) created in his effort to record contemporary experiences in a “direct, spontaneous approach [that] assured his art of freshness, sincerity, and immediacy.”
Ask artists to name great plein air painters of the past, and it’s not likely they will mention anyone active before 1850. Yet artists from the late 18th and early 19th centuries set the stage for the current interest in outdoor paintings by establishing the legitimacy of painting directly from nature. One champion of plein air painting was Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes who regularly painted outdoors in the 1700s and taught plein air paint in Paris as early as 1812.
The Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana has recreated the studio of Victor Higgins and placed one of his plein air landscapes near a larger studio oil painting based on that sketch. The display brings attention to an Indiana native who settled permanently in Taos, New Mexico and became a member of the Taos Society of Artists in 1917.
Although he didn’t think of himself as a painter, Gustave Baumann admitted he created gouache paintings outdoors because he needed “practice in getting color and light.” Those plein air paintings became studies from some of the most beautiful and well designed woodcut prints ever created.
Next spring, the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Maine will present an exhibition of 70 paintings by Mildred Burrage, a remarkable woman who studied in Europe, created plein air oil paintings and filled sketchbooks while in France, met Claude Monet and Gertrude Stein, and returned to Maine to spearhead numerous preservation projects, including the establishment of the Lincoln County Cultural and Historical Association.
In the winter, 2011 issue of PleinAir magazine, Joseph C. Skrapits writes about the group of Italian plein air painters who are being discovered by painters, collectors and scholars. The artists who were active in Tuscany in the second half of the 19th century were call The Macchiaioli, a derogatory name based on the word “macchie” (literally patches or spots).
A founding member of the Ten American Painters, J. Alden Weir was president of the National Academy of Design, the first president of the Association of American Painters and Sculptors, and a distinguished American impressionist painter. His home in Ridgefield, Connecticut is now a National Historic Site where artists are invited to spend a month in residence.
Claude Gellée Lorrain, known as Claude, has been called the father of European landscape painting. The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford, England is currently presenting “Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape (October 6, 2011 - January 8, 2012). The exhibition includes 140 works, some of which compare drawings made outdoors and the paintings and prints for which they became studies.

One of the most highly respected members of the Southern California art community, Jack Wilkinson Smith, was born in Patterson, New Jersey,  worked in Chicago, Illinois, and studied under Frank Duveneck in Cincinnati, Ohio before settling in the state he called “nature’s own paradise of scenic splendor and variety.

Like many women artists who married their teachers, Helen Savier DuMond’s promising art career was eclipsed by that of her famous husband, Frank Vincent DuMond (1865-1951). Nevertheless, her training in New York and Paris and her exception skills as a plein air painter earned her a place in exhibitions at the Paris Salon, the Corcoran Gallery, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the National Academy of Design.

Three paintings by the Russian-American artist Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) will be offered for sale by Southeby’s New York auction house, on behalf of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The sale brings attention to one of the most influential artists who worked directly from nature.
Two new exhibitions in the United States and one in England bring attention to the remarkably diverse artwork of Edgar Degas. All the works on display will demonstrate the French artist’s skill in accurately recording what he observed in nature and the creative ways he blended those observations with his lingering memories.

In the midst of a snow storm, Edward Willis Redfield would strap a 50” x 56” canvas to a tree, thin his paint with linseed oil to keep it from freezing, and use his gloved hands to paint a scene near his home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He firmly believed that paintings should be completed “in one go” and directly from nature.

The plein air watercolor paintings Eileen Monaghan Whitaker created in California, Mexico, Guatemala, and Spain earned her an international reputation, but her work in establishing a foundation dedicated to the conservation and promotion of her artwork may go further in preserving her memory and the record of her accomplishments.
Although he is little known today, Henry Ward Ranger’s name appears frequently in biographies of important contemporary artists because of purchase prizes that carry his name. That’s because Ranger left about $225,000 to the National Academy of Design in New York for the purpose of buying paintings from living or recently deceased artists and giving them to American museums around the country.

Maurice Brazil Prendergast (1858-1924) was introduced to painting “pochades,” or plein air paintings, on wooden panels by Canadian painter James Wilson Morrice when the two men traveled to French seaside resorts. The idea of creating paintings of people enjoying leisurely activities on beaches and in parks captivated Prendergast’s imagination, and he pursued those subjects throughout his career.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York purchased one of Ogden Minton Pleissner’s plein air paintings when the artist was only 27 years old and that launched him on a career as a respected but struggling artist and teacher. During the 1930s and 1940s, he creating oil paintings on location in Dubois, Wyoming where a friend owned a ranch, and other times he left his studio in New York to paint and fish with his teacher, Frank Vincent DuMond.

A subscriber to this newsletter pointed out there was one woman who was taken much more seriously than the young woman being ridiculed in Willard Leroy Metcalfe’s “Poor Little Bloticelli.”  Matilda Browne gained the respect of the American Impressionists who gathered in Old Lyme, Connecticut during the summer months.
Women artists have long struggled against indifference, neglect, and hostility in the art world, especially during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when art colonies were being formed in every region of the country. The majority of the students taking plein air painting classes in these summer colonies were young women, but instruction was almost always provided by men. The teachers depended on the income from their devoted students, but many of the men were openly opposed the professional advancement of women artists.
Knowing that plein air painters can learn a great deal from master artists who once placed their easels in the same locations, Publisher B. Eric Rhoads scheduled a tour of the Adirondack Museum during the PleinAir Publisher’s Invitational event in June. The participating artists were able to see great paintings created in some of the very locations where they had been working, and they saw a special exhibition of paintings by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait.

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“A Good Time Coming,” 1862

“The American painter George Inness (1825-1894) is widely admired for the evocative poetry of his late, tonal landscapes. Based on memory and guided by spiritual conviction, however, Inness’s late works offer little sense of the careful observation and plein air study that characterized his first four decades of artistic practice, and yet they were the foundations of his art,” says Mark D. Mitchell who recently curated a traveling exhibition of Inness paintings.
Although he was not often thought of as a plein air painter, Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) usually began his creative process by making drawings, watercolors, and dry-brush paintings on location. “I started out painting at an easel but soon gave that up,” he wrote. “It was too formal, too pat. I like to be in the scene I’m painting -- sitting on a snowbank, lying in a marsh.”
Jean Stern, Executive Director of the Irvine Museum in Irvine, California, has written a guest editorial for the Summer issue of PleinAir™ in which there are reproductions of a plein air painting and the resulting studio oil painting of the Arroyo Seco Bridge by Franz A. Bischoff (1864-1929). Bischoff built a studio-home in the Arroyo Seco just below the bridge depicted in the paintings. His still life paintings earned him the title of King of Rose Painters.
One of the most colorful plein air painters working during the first half of the 20th Century was John Sloan (1871-1951), an artist who was a member of The Eight, a group of prominent artists from the period. Sloan met his first wife, Dolly, in a brothel; he enjoyed gambling in his Santa Fe studio; and he painted sunsets from the roof of the adobe studio he built on Garcia Street in the New Mexico capital.
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In London, in 1841, the relation between technology and art history was dramatically changed with the invention of the screw-top collapsible paint tube by an American portrait artist, John Goff Rand (1801-1873). Rand’s invention was monumental because it made on-site oil sketching convenient for every artist, and encouraged new possibilities of artistic expression.

Frank Brangwyn was born in Bruges Belgium, in 1867. In 1874, his family moved to England. Frank Brangwyn received some artistic training in the workshops of William Morris, but received no formal artistic education.  At the age of seventeen, one of Brangwyn’s paintings was accepted at the Royal Academy. His canvas, “Funeral At Sea”, painted in 1890, won a Medal of the 3rd Class at the 1891 Paris Salon.



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