This Friday I fly down to Laguna Beach to participate in the 12th Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational. At the close of the 19th century, and the start of the 20th, Southern California gave birth to a unique form of American art: California Impressionism. A colorful, yet observational kind of plein air painting representative of the land and atmosphere of the place. And this same area has once again become synonymous with plein air painting. One man who may honestly be credited with much of this resurgence is Jean Stern, Director of The Irvine Museum. The Irvine Museum was established in 1992 with private funds to preserve, display, and inform the public about the masterworks of California Impressionism.
But lest I be seen as trying to steal Mr. Stern’s thunder, I present you with an article he wrote for PleinAir Art.net about the history of the genre. But I only offer the first two opening paragraphs. You must click on the link below to jump to the full free online article, as it has been published . . .
Landscape painting is a time honored tradition that is inseparable from the spirit of American art. From Colonial times, American art had been governed by special circumstances unique to this land. Unlike Europe, American art was nurtured in the absence of empowered patronage. Institutions such as the monarchy or the church had been powerful determinants in the progress of European art. In turn, America’s democratic tendencies were powerful factors that led to the popularization of landscape painting as the ideal vehicle for expressing the American spirit, as it afforded an avenue to express God and Nature as one, an understanding of spirituality that disavowed religious patronage, and it created a metaphor of the American landscape as the fountainhead from which sprang the bounty and opportunity of rustic American life.