|Plein air mural by San Diego icon Charles Reiffel. Titled "Point Loma." It was commissioned by the federal WPA circa 1937. It is now located in San Diego's Casa de Balboa.|
EN PLEIN AIR—North Park residents living in historic bungalows understand that the painting style that was prevalent at the time their 100 year old craftsman homes were being built was called plein air or the plein air movement.
Jean Stern, executive director of The Irvine Museum and a renowned authority on Californian Impressionism, presented an art talk titled “The California Impressionist Style” on Sunday, January 27 at Art Expressions Gallery, 2645 Financial Ct San Diego, CA 92117.
Mr. Stern’s illustrated lecture examined the principal painters of art in California between 1890 and 1925. The $20 admission fee is a donation to ArtsBusXpress, a nonprofit that underwrites bus transportation to field trips for local students.
Plein Air Defined.
Here’s a definition from PBS’ “Painting the American Landscape.”
Plein Air (French for "open air") painting became popular in the early nineteenth century in both Europe and America when paint manufacturers made a wide range of pre-mixed oil pigments available for the first time, and the easily transportable box easel, or pochade (quick sketch) box, was developed. Artists could finally take their work into the field with ease—the artist could, as Monet wrote, "...paint the air in which are situated the bridge, the home, the boat."
These artists paint natural light, using color to define form. Plein Air artists generally paint "ala prima," laying down a scene with quick broad, colorful brush strokes, foregoing the typical 'building up' of paint. Depending on the light and weather, Plein Air paintings are generally done in one session. Artists often add final touches to their work once back in the studio.
Plein Air painters are drawn to places with a certain quality of light. From Alaska to Cape Cod, we will see the light and landscapes that draw today's artists and those who came before them.
Top of the Tank is an occasional series on life in historic North Park, one of the nation's most diverse and architecturally significant neighborhoods with special emphasis on the Arts & Crafts Era (1890-1920).