There’s three things I care to spend my money on—books, travel, and art. I have started my small art collection and with every piece I ask the artist to write up the story behind the painting. For my latest article in Texas Co-op Power magazine, I studied the technique of painting en plein air—painting outside, looking directly at the scene. These paintings all have stories behind them. It turns out the en plein air movement in Texas got its start close to my hometown, near San Angelo, and EnPleinAirTEXAS (Oct. 18-24, 2020) continues the tradition.
Here’s some bonus content for those of you who enjoy art history as much as I do:
In 1841, American artist John G. Rand invented the paint tube, making it much easier for artists to carry their paints outside. Prior to this, artists transported paint in pig bladders. This freed painters to explore the countryside together to paint completely in nature. Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) were among the rebels with quick brush strokes that started the Impressionism movement that gave future plein air painters permission to focus on movement of atmosphere rather than fine details.
EnPleinAirTEXAS continues a legacy that began decades ago. The Texas Artists Camp in Christoval (20 miles south of San Angelo) was the first major plein air artist event in Texas. The camp was active from 1921 to 1927 and was founded by Mollie Crowther (1867-1927), a local artist known for her bluebonnet paintings and who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. Artists from near and far gathered on the Concho River and stayed at the Baptist Encampment Grounds. In 1927, 62 men and women from 22 different places attended the outdoor painting event. Artists paint on private ranches in this same area during EnPleinAirTEXAS.
Spanish artists José Arpa y Perea (1858-1952) and his nephew Xavier Gonzalez (1898-1993) also taught in Christoval. Arpa, revered for his landscapes and bluebonnets, founded his own plein air school in Bandera in 1926 and taught several of the Texas artists we celebrate today. Also important to the plein air movement in Texas, Anthony De Young (1893-1956) founded the De Young Painting Camp in the Davis Mountains and taught plein air classes in Abilene, Brownwood, Boerne, Eagle Pass and Port Isabel. The Art Colony at Sul Ross in Alpine was also an important annual gathering (1921-1950) in Texas art history.
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