Anita Blythe sees a lot of plein air paintings. It’s all her gallery carries. And she expresses considerable respect for the “level of excellence throughout each of Richard Prather’s paintings.”
Prather’s paintings are on view in “Richard Prather: Big Places in Small Spaces,” now through October 31 at Purple Sage Gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The show features 30 paintings done exclusively on location in New Mexico. That’s a key point for Blythe. After she explained why she considers Prather accomplished — “He captures light, but with a very fine touch — not a big splash, but a delicate touch that really captures your attention” — we couldn’t resist asking her what makes the plein air collector different from a typical art collector.

“Wild & Scenic,” by Richard Prather, oil, 12 x 16 in. Courtesy of Purple Sage Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Her answer: Not much. The biggest difference she sees is that plein air collectors are looking for an authentic depiction of the local landscape. “Here, they want the local scenery of New Mexico,” says Blythe. “The person who comes into Purple Sage Gallery and buys a painting may or may not be a regular collector, but they have traveled around the state and this is the landscape they’ve been seeing. These pictures capture it so well. Seeing the real thing and painting on location makes a difference and translates well onto the canvas. Plein air collectors like the look of the freshness, true color, and light that you just can’t get with studio work, in my opinion. Plein air is not overworked.”

“Vineyards at Santa Ana,” by Richard Prather, oil, 9 x 12 in. Courtesy of Purple Sage Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Afternoon Cloud,” by Richard Prather, oil, 10 x 8 in. Courtesy of Purple Sage Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Purple Sage Gallery is rare in that it features only plein air work. In fact, when Blythe first opened the gallery in Albuquerque’s Old Town three years ago, she strongly suspects that hers was the only gallery in the United States with that distinction. “As far as I knew, it was going to be the only all-plein-air gallery in the country, and I noticed that plein air was getting bigger,” she says. “I thought it might be sweeping the country, and it seems to be doing just that. I love the spontaneity of plein air work. I’m surrounded by art I love and I’m happy all day looking at these paintings. It is truly enjoyable.”


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