As a plein air painter, you are part of one of the largest art movements in history. Learn about those who have helped start this movement in some way, and be inspired to continue your own journey of landscape painting.
Landscape Painting History: Our Plein Air Heritage
Richard Parkes Bonington (British, 1802-1828)
Born in England but trained in France, where he spent most of his life, Richard Parkes Bonington enjoys a place in the history of both British and French art. Characterized by bright color, delicate brushwork, and a fresh naturalism, his landscape paintings often feature river scenes or views of the French coast.
For “View Near Rouen” (above), he painted from the bank of the Seine opposite Rouen, likely in the late summer or autumn of 1825, shortly after returning from London, where he’d been inspired by the work of the great English landscape painters John Constable and J.M.W. Turner.
Preferring to paint directly from nature, Bonington had walked away from the École des Beaux-Arts and the tutelage of Antoine-Jean Gros (French, 1771–1835) years before. Although he enjoyed great success in the master’s studio, he grew bored with drawing from casts in the academic tradition and set out on his own path of study, which included a sketching tour to Normandy.
Although Bonington’s career spanned less than 10 years, his approach to landscape painting had a profound influence on the Barbizon School, and later the Impressionists, including Claude Monet.
He represented an important bridge between English and French landscape painting and was instrumental in launching the French plein air tradition. He died one month before his 26th birthday, from a complication of tuberculosis.
Watch a documentary about the plein air painting movement to learn more about its history and evolution:
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