In preparation for our Spring en plein air show ‘Mood & Light’ which runs throughout April 2014, I thought it would be interesting to take a brief look at the history of outdoor painting, or painting directly from nature, in Irish art. Thomas Couture, with whom Nathaniel Hone studied in France, is quoted as saying ‘give three minutes to looking at a thing and one minute to painting it.’ This must make artists’ shudder as much as delight! Yet there is no denying that the practice of painting outdoors produces work of great spontaneity and colour.
Many notable Irish artists of the late nineteen and early twentieth centuries went overseas to study painting. The list reads like a who’s who of the most beloved and recognised of artists from these shores: John Lavery, Nathaniel Hone, Aloysius O’Kelly, Frank O’Meara, William John Leech, Walter Osborne & Willam Orpen. Antwerp, Paris and Gréz were popular locations and from here Irish artists’ painting en plein was much influenced by Jules Bastien-Lepage. Orpen is the exception having not trained overseas. His plein air style is attributed to a more impressionist influence. Later into the twentieth century the tradition to paint outdoors continued with artists such as Paul Henry, James Humbert Craig and Maurice Canning Wilks.
Thanks to groups, such as Pleineire and the very successful Art In The Open Festival held in County Wexford each summer, the desire to paint outdoors is being re-awakened in Ireland. Norman Teeling is one Irish artist who has been a proponent of pleinairism throughout his illustrious career. This quote from Teeling sums up the essence of what it’s all about: