Last week we had the opportunity to observe long time gallery artist, Jan Pawlowski, painting en plein-air or “in the open air” on Chappaquiddick. Pawlowski, who joined our gallery in 1996, was capturing one of his favorite views, the harbor activity near the Edgartown Yacht Club.
Painting En Plein Air
Plein air painting was first popularized by the impressionists in the 1870s. For centuries artists have been painting outdoors on location, but it wasn’t until the advent of metal tubes of oil paint that painting en plein air truly became a movement. Finally, artists were able to easily transport their supplies to whatever location they chose and paint on site. Prior to the introduction of paint tubes, artists had to mix their own pigments individually each time they desired to use a particular color. Paints would dry out quickly and so it was simply impractical to attempt to move a palette and supplies outdoors, far away from one’s studio.
Impressionists fully embraced plein air painting. This method was directly in line with their goal of capturing the magic of light and the essence of the landscape. Painting on location encourages the artist to work quickly to capture the mood of the setting. This can often account for the energetic brushstrokes seen in Impressionist canvases. Artists of all time periods and styles worked outdoors from life, but often they would only sketch or draft the composition they saw before them. The final paintings were reserved for the shelter of the indoor studio. Impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh challenged this method.
When inspired by an environment, he would often work fastidiously to render the scene in paint right then and there, such as in “The White Orchard” (1888). These spontaneous paintings by van Gogh and other artists like Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro define the oeuvre of the Impressionists.
Today, Jan Pawlowski works in a similar manner to many well-known masters. “A Day for Sailing” was painted from the beach on Chappaquiddick overlooking the harbor and Edgartown lighthouse. Pawlowski was inspired by the beautiful sunny blue sky and gentle wind to capture this image of sailboats keeling in the wind in front of the lighthouse.
Many artists that we represent here at The Christina Gallery paint en plein air. Stop by and ask us to point out some paintings for you or see if you can pick out which paintings were painted en plein air on our website!
“En Plein Air” with Jan Pawlowski
Jan Pawlowski is known internationally for his impressionist seascapes, landscapes and city scenes. Sunday the 24th of July marked the opening of the Polish artist’s one man show here at The Christina Gallery. Pawlowski has been a frequent visitor to Martha’s Vineyard since joining the gallery in 1996.
This exhibition of his work highlights these visits as he displays views of the island. The paintings displayed in the show demonstrate Pawlowski’s confident and quick brushstrokes as well as his sensitive understanding of color and form. Pawlowski’s followers appreciate his bright and serene palette.
Paintings such as “June Afternoon, Edgartown Yacht Club” capture the essence of the Vineyard. A light wind blows causing the American flag to flutter in the wind and a cluster of sailboats breeze by in the distance. Pawlowski manipulates the oil paint masterfully, transforming a few simple brushstrokes into light and fluffy clouds gracing the otherwise clear afternoon sky.
Jan Pawlowski paints en plein air or ‘in the open air.’ This technique of painting was advocated by the Impressionists of the late 19th century. In 1841 tubes of paint were invented, allowing artists to easily transport their materials and paint from life wherever they were inspired. Prior to this invention, artists and their assistants hand ground pigments and produced their own paints. Many art historians and critics credit the creation of tubes of paint for the development of Impressionism for it was the ease of movement that allowed artists to paint outdoors. Pawlowski embraces this technique and can often be found along the beaches and waterfronts of Martha’s Vineyard capturing the jovial atmosphere of the island with his expressive brushstrokes and pleasing palette.
Pawlowski has been recognized for his oeuvre of artwork by the Polish government; in 1979 he was awarded the highest honor given, called “Authorization and Certification.” His work was also in the collection of Pope John Paul II.