En plein air

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Missing image
Sargent_MonetPainting.jpg
Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood. 1885. John Singer Sargent. Oil on canvas. 54.0 x 64.8 cm. Tate Gallery, London.

En plein air translates from French to English as in the open air, and describes painting outdoors rather than in a studio. In Italian the term alfresco is used.

Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-1800s working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and impressionist painters. The popularity of painting en plein air increased with introduction in the 1870s of paints in tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes). Previously, each painter made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil.

The impressionist painters, including Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, advocated en plein air painting, and much of their work was done outdoors.

In Russia, in the second half of 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, painters Vasily Polenov, Isaac Levitan, Valentin Serov, K.A. Korovin and I.E. Grabar painted en plein air.

Throughout the 20th century, and into the 21st, outdoor painting maintained popularity.

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