Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood
(1885) by John Singer Sargent. Tate Gallery, London
En plein air is a French expression which means "in the open air", and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-1800s working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and Impressionism.
French Impressionist painters, such as Claude Monet, advocated en plein air painting and much of their work was done outdoors. American Impressionists, too, such as those of the Old Lyme school, were avid painters en plein air.
The popularity of outdoor painting has endured throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century in spite or maybe even because of the loss of much of the subject matter to development. Plein Air Peconic artists are proud to be part of the continuing tradition.