Plein air illustrations
“Wasting Time” by Charles Dana Gibson

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.

Charles Dana Gibson

At a time when digital media is rapidly changing the publishing business and the market for original illustrations is greatly reduced, it is hard to imagine an era in which artists could become rich and famous by creating drawings and paintings for newspapers, books, magazines, and commercial advertising. However, during the Golden Age of American Illustration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, artists like Charles Dana Gibson could become wealthy celebrities.

Gibson was educated at the Art Students League of New York and wanted to create paintings for publication, but the marketplace definitely favored his pen-and-ink drawings. That preference was so strong that his “Gibson Girl” became an ideal image of youthful American femininity, and Gibson’s drawings of her were responsible for the success of several magazines. At the height of his career, Gibson was paid $100,000 for 100 drawings over a four-year period (well over $1 million today), and he was later able to purchase Life magazine with a syndicate of successful illustrators.

Plein air heritage: Charles Dana Gibson
“Studies in Expression” by Charles Dana Gibson

The illustrations reproduced here are just two of the drawings Gibson made that deal with the life of an artist. “Wasting Time” (shown at top) is one of several that depict well-dressed plein air painters, and “Studies in Expression” is part of a series that made fun of the market for fine art paintings.

Watch a documentary about the plein air painting movement to learn more about its history and evolution:

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