Plein Air Painting

 Painting and Drawing

PLEIN-AIR: Out-of-Doors landscape Summary


Seven North Art has a long history of representing artists that work out-of-doors like Peter Pettegrew and Natalie Worthington. These two artists spend a lot of time painting Plein Air. This is an art term used to describe a painting technique where the artist will take their paints, canvas, sketch pad, easel outside and paint what they see before them. Instead of looking at photographs for reference.

Pettegrew is considered a master of the Modern Landscape, with seven museum shows under his belt and a massive amount of experience painting on location. Peter often picks very remote locations in the wilderness where he says, it all comes together. 

There are the Plein Air artists that paint outdoors but do not go to the wild lands, they wander only to the edges of towns or to a local field for the day. Then there is the artist like Pettegrew who venture into the remote wilderness; which requires a different kind of mentality. In both cases, these artists share the same basic challenges, such as changing light, temperature fluctuations, rain and wind.

     Pettegrew  ''Summer Skies''         

Worthington N. ''First Blush''

 Painting while standing in the middle of a marsh or forest, with a few brushes quickly changing scenery is a beautiful and challenging endeavor. The majority of artists who delve into this style of painting never stay with it for very long. Lifelong wilderness Plein Air artists are few; and this highly emotional way of painting, often far from conveniences and comforts, takes a tougher attitude, effort and risk.

Painting in the moment on location deep into a Federal Wildlife Refuge or National Park as the bugs are biting and wild animals are roaming is much different than working in the comfort of a studio! See below in a scene from the PBS excepted Documentary 'Heart of a Landscape Painter' the art of Peter Pettegrew, a common occurrence for Plein Air artist while working in Swamps and Low Lands. 


To see all about Lake Woodruff'' Link 

Pettegrew Print''Serenity'' Handmade Silk Screen Limited Edition 24x36

So let's take a look at the history of Plein Air painting and the differences between working out-doors in town and in the wilderness.

We could say Leonardo DaVinci had something to do with it back in the 1400's because it is thought by many, that this experimental ingenious artist and inventor must have painted outside. The earliest primitive human probably painted outside as well. There is no documentation of these two points but it is entirely probable.

Back in the late 1500's and early 1600's an Italian painter whose name was Agnostic Tassi had a student name Claude Lorain, Claude started going outdoors to work and is considered by most scholars as the father of painting outdoors.

However, it wasn't until the late 1700's that the landscape became know as a subject unto itself. Two notable early landscape artist that spurred this acceptance into being was Frenchman named Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes and an Englishman John Constable. They taught their students to paint and sketch on location because they realized they could more accurately represent the color, light and particularly the depth that could be obtained by working in a 3D perspective. Working outdoors took considerably more effort but, the results were worth the trouble.

Around 1868, French impressionist artist Claude Monet, along with a group of other artists including Degas and Renior, started their own organization. This was because they had been rejected by the art power brokers of England and France, namely Academies des Beaux Arts.They called their organization the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers (Society anonyme des artiste peinteres,sculpteurs et graveurs)

Monet Claude ''Jardin de Monet a Giverny'' Printed Spain 80's

Together these artists came up with the term "Plein Air." They described it as painting the light quickly, using fast wispy, short brush strokes. They had a group show a few years later at The Royal Academies of Art in France and England . The school held semi-annual shows to help unknown artists have an opportunity to show their work and to possibly receive critical notice. This was the start of the Impressionist Movement. 

 Monet, taking a break while on an outing working Plein-Air in the gardens.

Monet Claude ''Water Lilies Green Reflection''                                            Renoir "Bridge at Chatou'Pri"

    Degas Edgar ''Coastal Strip at Sunset'' Print 13x19 


Well you know the rest of this story, because some of the other artists in the Group of Eight (as they came to be known), were Renoir, Pissarro and also the one woman, Berthe Morisot.

The original Group of Eight coined the phrase "Plein Air" in France around 1870. Across the Atlantic, the early North American naturalist painters were already hard at work painting a totally different "out-doors" style. These early North American naturalist painters were a completely different breed of artists than their European counterparts. Monet, Pissarro and the group were painting in gardens and fields around and in towns; they did not wander off into wild and rugged environments.

These American out-doors artists were adventurers, explorers and pioneers, who painted untouched natural, wild lands. At the same time, these works of art became pieces of historical documentation. Many of these early landscape paintings were 10 feet long or more; so often these wilderness painters did pencil sketches with written notes, charcoal drawings and small study paintings for their reference to work from on a much large piece in their studio. 

Pettegrew Peter ''Quiet-River'' Oil Painting  Canvas 48x60 Seven North Art   original oil on canvas

#Pettegrew Peter ''Mystic Mountain'' A commission by Pettegrew in the North Carolina Mountains -sold

Probably no one traveled to so many locations as Albert Bierstadt. He first painted in the eastern part of the U.S. He captured the White Mountains of New Hampshire on canvas in 1952. Later in 1959 is when he first traveled west to the pacific ocean, painting the pounding waves and palms trees of the California coast. After many trips, Bierstadt completed paintings of Yosemite in California, Mt. Hood in Oregon, Estes Park in Colorado and Puget Sound in Washington. He even ventured to Alaska and later painted islands in the Bahamas. During these journeys he had few amenities and could not go back to a cozy home each night. This was Plein Air for sure, but should probably be called "Wilderness Plein Air" painting.  Most of the places he painted had only ever been seen by the native people of those regions.  It is worth noting that some say Albert Bierstadt completed approximately 4,000 works in his lifetime. It is impossible to know an accurate count because his large home and studio in Malkastan N.Y. burned down in 1882 with many finished and unfinished works.

           Bierstadt Albert ''The Oregon Trail''24 x 18 $32.00


Outside, the constantly moving shadows and can quickly change the character and mood of artist physic and ultimately change the results of the painting. In the scene linked below from a documentary film produced by Seven North Art, you can almost feel the realities and frustrations of Plein Air painting. After 600 miles of travel and three days of rain and no sun the artist could not even get a painting started; until the third day. He was in the Ace Basin National Wildlife Refuge  probably the largest undeveloped estuaries along the Atlantic Coast of the United States in South Carolina 350,000 acres (1,400 km)


Pettegrew Peter ''Colors of Nature'' Plein Air original

Pettegrew Event Poster print with Carl Hiaasen and peter Benchkey for The Everglade restoration Conservancy of -S.W. FL


Nathalie Worthington who took to Plein Air painting about six years ago and after 40 years of mostly studio work has not looked back.  At this moment she is in Northern California painting out-of-doors and will return around the 28th of October and soon after Seven North Art will bring you her results in a press release. Below you will see two recent Plein Air paintings by Worthington and other Plein Air works available at Seven North Art.

Call or contact us for more information on this exciting art form and see many other Plein Air Artists at

Worthington N ''Suspension"                                                                        Worthington N.''Dancing with the Beeches''


Caleb''Purple Blvd''

Pettegrew "Off the End of Spring Island'' National Parks Foundation

 Pettegrew ''Evening Reflections''

Pettegrew Peter ''Lake Apopka''

Pettegrew Stone Litho original prints Limited edition from Plein Air study's hand made.

Pettegrew Evening Colors hand painted Limited Ed.

Pettegrew Peter ''Colors of Nature''



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