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Plein Air | Now boarding

In the realm of art and artistic expression, there exists a profound relationship between the artist and the natural world and no better place on the planet than for these two worlds to collide in union but in creative Eureka Springs - nestled in these Ozarks right here in The Natural State.

Plein Air

This form of artistic expression beautifully encapsulates this bond. Originating in the 19th century, the plein air artistic movement revolutionized the way artists perceived and portrayed the world around them.

As we soon welcome plein air artists from all over the globe to visit our little Ozark town for the Eureka Springs Plein Air Art Festival, let's first delve into the historic elements of plein air painting, tracing its origins, evolution, and enduring legacy.


Plein Air is a form of painting in which artists step outside of their studios and paint the natural outdoor surroundings. Most plein air pieces are (1) landscapes, (2) specific buildings or (3) beautiful natural areas.

The roots of plein air painting can be traced back to France in the early 1860s, where four young rebel painters—Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille—met in art school and discovered a shared passion for painting landscapes and contemporary life. Departing from the traditional practice of creating sketches outdoors and later refining them in the studio, these artists embraced the radical idea of painting directly from nature, en plein air.

At the time it was customary to make sketches and later develop the sketches into carefully finished works of art back in the studio.

Instead, this form is painting outside in nature, and finishing the work on location.

This was fascinating to onlookers and passers-by and not soon after, these young rebels became legends: Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), and Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) discovered that by painting in sunlight, directly from nature, and making bold use of the vivid synthetic pigments that had recently been invented, they could develop a lighter and brighter style of painting.

Their decision to paint outdoors was not merely practical but also philosophical. By immersing themselves in the natural environment and capturing its essence in real-time, they sought to infuse their artworks with a sense of immediacy, spontaneity, and vibrancy. Embracing natural light and vivid synthetic pigments, they pioneered a style of painting that celebrated the transient beauty of the world around them.

As the plein air movement gained momentum in Europe, it soon spread across the Atlantic to America. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, art colonies emerged in various picturesque locales, including Cos Cob and Old Lyme, Connecticut; Taos, New Mexico; Laguna Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California; New Hope, Pennsylvania; Brown County, Indiana, and our very own Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

These art colonies served as incubators of creativity, attracting talented artists seeking inspiration amidst nature's splendor. Immersed in breathtaking landscapes and diverse natural settings, painters honed their craft, exchanged ideas, and forged enduring friendships. The plein air movement not only transformed artistic practices but also fostered a sense of community among like-minded individuals dedicated to capturing the beauty of the outdoors on canvas.

Beyond its artistic innovations, plein air painting holds significant historical and cultural importance. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as industrialization and urbanization reshaped society, the natural world faced increasing threats of exploitation and degradation. In this context, plein air painters played a vital role as advocates for environmental conservation and appreciation.

Through their evocative depictions of pristine landscapes, majestic mountains, tranquil rivers, and rustic villages, plein air artists raised awareness about the fragility of nature and the need to preserve it for future generations. Their paintings served as visual testaments to the beauty and diversity of the natural world, inspiring viewers to reconnect with their surroundings and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the environment.

JUNE 2 - 7, 2024

Today, the legacy of plein air painting endures, transcending temporal and geographical boundaries.

While contemporary artists continue to explore and innovate within this genre, they remain indebted to the pioneering spirit and artistic vision of their predecessors.

Plein air festivals, workshops, and exhibitions abound, providing opportunities for artists and enthusiasts to celebrate the beauty of nature and the joy of painting en plein air.

Moreover, plein air painting continues to resonate with audiences worldwide, serving as a source of inspiration, solace, and reflection. In an age marked by technological advancements and urban sprawl, the act of painting outdoors offers a respite from the frenetic pace of modern life, allowing individuals to reconnect with nature's rhythms and find solace in its timeless beauty.

"Plein air painting stands as a testament to the enduring bond between art and nature."

From its humble beginnings in the French countryside to its proliferation across continents and centuries, this artistic movement has captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of artists and admirers. As we reflect on the historic elements of plein air work, let us celebrate its rich legacy and embrace the profound beauty of the natural world that continues to inspire us all.

To all the artists - we thank you for the joy you bring to our town. All aboard Plein Air Eureka Springs 2024.❤️


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