What is Plein Air Painting?

What is Plein Air Painting?

En Plein air, sometimes known as Plein air painting, is the act of painting outside.

How does it differ from other types of painting?

This method differs from studio painting or scholastic art, which can result in a fixed appearance of the work.


What is the definition of Plein air painting?

In its literal definition, Plein-air painting is the exercise of painting landscape scenes outside.

What characteristics distinguish Plein-air painting?

Painting in the open air while surrounded by nature. In comparison, to painting inside a studio. 

It is one of the most effective techniques for painters to learn to perceive nature's genuine colors as well as to portray the atmosphere in their painting.

Origins of Plein Air Painting

It was standard procedure till the era of the Barbizon school of artists in the mid-nineteenth century in France to do preliminary drawings of landscape scenes outside and finalize works in the studio.  

Artists bought their colors in the type of powdered pigment and blended them with oils. The creation of a compact, portable platform and new cylinders packed with mixed colors, made painting outside considerably easier.

Despite these advancements, many Barbizon painters remained to work primarily in the studio; it was not until the late 1860s, with the work of Impressionist leaders Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro, that painting en Plein air became more popular.

This shift began in 1881, when Monet, in an attempt to portray the genuine effects of sunlight on the color of a scene painting, began to transport many canvases into the open air.


Painting Techniques for Plein Air

Take only what you need

The most important part is to travel light in order to go around more effortlessly and comfortably. Remove anything from your bag that you don't want and carry only the necessities.

Make your palette as simple as possible

When you're initially starting out, one of the most basic Plein air painting techniques is to utilize fewer colors. A restricted palette or a primary warm/cool palette is a suitable option.

Famous Plein Air Artist

  • John Constable
  • Lovis Corinth
  • Claude Monet
  • Peter Seitz Adams
  • Fr√©d√©ric Bazille
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Camille Pissarro
  • William Merritt Chase
  • Eug√®ne Chigot
  • Robert Clunie
  • Mary Cassatt
  • Jack Cassinetto
  • William Didier-Pouget

Plein Air Activists

Claude Monet was an en Plein air painter who realized that in order to capture the proximity and realism of an outside situation at a precise moment, one must be outside instead of painting it in their studio.

Artists such as Konstantin Korovin, Isaac Levitan, Vasily Polenov, Valentin Serov, and I. E. Grabar were noted for painting en Plein air in Russia during the second part of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century. 

Guy Rose, Mary DeNeale Morgan, and Arthur Hill Gilbert were among the American impressionist artists that were known for this technique.


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