Helen Arts & Heritage Center

Serving the Arts & Artists - Preserving Our Heritage


Why Plein Air?

​En plein aire...
...a French expression meaning, "in the open air," is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century, working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and Impressionism.

The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paints that were packaged in tubes. Before this time, each painter made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil.

French Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir advocated en plein air painting and much of their work was done outdoors, in the diffused light provided by a large white umbrella. In the second half of the 19th century and beginning of the twentieth century in Russia, many prominent painters became known for painting en plein air. American Impressionist painters noted for this style during this era included Guy Rose, Robert William Wood, Mary Denil Morgan, John Gamble and Arthur Hill Gilbert. The Canadian Group of Seven and Tom Thomson are examples of en plein air advocates.

Membership is FREE and everyone is invited to join us!
Gayle Murdock, Group Coordinator

Contact us about our plein air group
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