Dessiner en Plein Air

Delacroix © Louvre

In the early part of the 19th century —before photography was invented— artists took their easels and sketchbooks outdoors to more faithfully represent nature. “Designer en plein air,” a temporary exhibition at the Louvre revisits drawings, etchings and some thirty sketchbooks of several open air artists such as Delacroix, Corot, Chassériau, Valenciennes and Daubigny (to January 29. 2018).

Drawing “en pleiin air” has probably been around since painting itself, but it became an established practice in France and Europe during the 17th century. The Gare Saint Lazare built in 1837 gave artists an easy way to get out into nature. The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1840s with the invention of the “box easel” and introduction of paints in tubes which made painting at the sea side much easier.

During the 19th century drawings from nature gradually came to be viewed as artworks in their own right. This change in perception led to the 1861 publication of Charles Daubigny’s “Voyage en bateau,” a collection of rapid sketches depicting his outings on the rivers Seine and Oise aboard his studio-boat the Botin, which provided an ideal setting for drawing from nature. A selection of these sketches is included in the exhibition. “Designer en Plein Air” —from practice drawings, to architecture and travel notes to fleeting impressions— revisits the genre in all its variations.

Designer en plein air,” to January 29, 2018, The Louvre, Paris