Plein Air

A Sunday Special

Okay, I’ve been interested in art since I was a kid. I took art classes in high school, art was half my double major in college (along with Literature) and I went on to art school after that. For more years than I can recall, perhaps my favorite style of painting is Plein Air.

Plein Air Painters of California cvr sml

Plein Air is the name of a school (style) of painting which began about 1890, remained popular through the 1940s. Practiced throughout he United States, it was especially popular in the West and a particularly talented and productive group of artists worked in California. It continues to have adherents today.

In nearby Orange County, CA the Joan Irvine Museum has a substantial collection of plein air works, and there’s much more in other California museums.

There is a set of excellent books on the subject, published by  Westphal Publishing in Irvine, Plein Air Painters of California: The Southland (shown) and Plein Air Painters of California: The North. These books may no longer be in print, and at $79 each, they were far from inexpensive when published in 1982 and 1986, respectively. Yet for anyone interested in this type of art, I can’t recommend them highly enough. Those with a more casual interest may find them in a larger library.

Yesterday we went to an “art walk”, where artists from all over southern California to come and display works. The booths were set up along the street, and there was a contest for amateur painters with a cash prize. In addition to amateur art there were many professional artists exhibiting work for show and sale.

In Laguna Canyon - Alfred Tse - 2008

In Laguna Canyon - Alfred Tse - 2008

We walked through the area, enjoying the beautiful Fall day and the artwork. One of the booths had several plein air style paintings, several of which I liked, and I decided to buy one of them.

The artist, Alfred Tse (pronounced “see”), studied art in Hong Kong and Peking before immigrating to the U.S. in 1988. He worked in the plein air style, first in watercolor, then since 1996 in oils.

Here’s the painting, “In Laguna Canyon” painted by Tse in early autumn of 2008. I have visited Laguna Beach many times, driving through the canyon. Tse has captured the feel of the place perfectly.

I have some empty frames that were my grandmother’s, I’m hoping one will work for this. If not, I’ll be off to the framing shop tomorrow.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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5 Responses to Plein Air

  1. Patti Abbott says:

    Where does the term plein come from? They are lovely. I especially like the art produced by the group of seven in Canada in the early-mid part of the 20th Century.

  2. Richard says:

    The term Plein air means “outdoor”. It comes from the French, “en plein air” meaning outdoor, or alfresco. Most if not all of these artists worked outdoors, on site, at least for their preliminary sketches and color studies.

  3. Patti Abbott says:

    Thanks, Rick. I’m going to look for some of their work here. Maybe the DIA has some.

  4. Nicely done. This style particularly suits California especially in the 1950s before there was so much development.

  5. Richard says:

    William – Thanks very much. Southern California is filled with nice plein air works, in museums from Orange County to Pasadena and up the coast to the bay area and wine country. The painting I bought was a gift to myself.

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