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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Painting Outdoors

Not many, but a few artists, some of the most dedicated, in fact, paint outdoors.  Even for those who like to travel light, the gear and various creature comforts for several hours of concentrated artistic effort still involves several pounds of baggage.  Unless you plan to sit on the ground, you need some form of folding chair, your painting suface, an easel, of course, plus your paint case, and probably something to eat and drink.  It's just about all one person can carry.  The French call it "plein aire" painting, usually watercolors, but sometimes in oils or acrylics.

It's only natural that the French should coin the term "plein aire." One of the "inventions" of French Impressionism was painting out-of-doors. Of course artists of the so called "Barbizon" school of art had done some painting outdoors for years, sketching the scene in oils, maybe brushing in a few colors, but they had always finished their work in the studio. What was unique about the Impressionists was that they not only started their works outdoors, but finished them there as well. Among these was the early Impressionist Eugene Boudin.

Trouville, 1864, Eugene Boudin

The Realist painter, Gustave Courbet once dubbed Boudin "the monarch of the skies". His father ran a stationery store in the northern French coast town of Le Havre where Boudin exhibited his canvases in the shop window. Also exhibited there were the clever caricatures of a brash young teenager. When the two met in the shop one day, Boudin's sympathetic question to him could be said to have changed the history of art. "Why don't you PAINT," he asked? The next day, Boudin took the young man with him to paint the seashore.
Impression, Sunrise, 1872, Claude Monet

Who was that young man?

Claude Monet.

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