The St. Augustine Art Association is pleased to host the Seventh Annual St. Augustine Plein Air Paint Out taking place throughout our historic city from April 26 to April 30. This event brings St. Augustine’s art history into present day as artists converge on the streets, committing to canvas the old-world charm of our city.
The French phrase peinture en plein air translates to English as painting outdoors, and although we could say outdoor painting, en plein air sounds more elegant. Prior to the early 1800s, artists painted solely in a studio because they had to mix and make their own paints. Once paint tubes became readily available, plein air painting took off. In the 1860s, plein air became a key method of the Impressionist movement. Art students at the Barbizon School in France painted outdoors to learn how weather and time of day affected lighting, color, and shadows, while artists such as Claude Monet and Pierre-August Renoir spent hours painting the same scene over and over again at different times of the day or year to capture those intricate differences.
Plein air painting was a common practice in St. Augustine for a long time, in fact, many of the early members of the St. Augustine Art Association were plein air painters. In the 1940s, artist Anthony Thieme put St. Augustine on the map for collectors in New York City with his vibrant plein air paintings of St. Augustine, and he even dubbed the town the “first choice of all Florida for artists.” Other plein air artists from New England gravitated toward St. Augustine’s warmer climate including Tod Lindenmuth with his wife E. B. Warren, Nunzio Vayana, and William and Lucy L’Engle. In more recent years, and probably most notably, Emmett Fritz painted in the streets and sold paintings as souvenirs to visitors and passersby. It is believed that Fritz completed some 10,000 paintings during his career.