IE hosted the conference “Impressionism and Open-air Painting”

Written on March 7, 2013 by Fernando Dameto Zaforteza in IE Humanities Center


On Thursday February 28th IE hosted the conference “Impressionism and Open-air Painting” by the curator of the homonymous exhibition Juan Angel Lopez Manzanares, on show until May at the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum. Even though it was cold and rainy the great expectancy aroused amongst students and alumni caused a great attendance.

The lecturer decided to focus on the origins of Plein Air painting especially in the period before the great boom of the genre with painters such as Cezanne or Van Gogh. This decision wasn’t a miss consideration but was due to the fact that normally the origins are less known by the public. The speaker made that clear by stating “Impressionists painters drew a new concept by finishing the picture open air and not in the studio”

During the 80 minutes that lasted the conference many painters were treated. But there was one that stood out, Pierre Henri de Valenciennes, mainly due to his treaty Elémens de perspective pratique. The importance of that treaty is reflected in the anecdote given by the lecturer “A century later, in the letter of the impressionist painter Camille Pissarro to his son and young painter Lucien, he attaches the treaty and a note stating although it was written long time ago is the best on the subject”. Dr. Lopez-Manzanares also talked about the other theory writer John Ruskin highlighting his support to the British painters over overseas, especially Turner, as well as his posterior influence on The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Even thought the conference covered a wide historic period the lecturer focus in the late 18th century and the early 19th. Most of the landscapes turn out to be Italian because they were painted during the Grand Tour by young artist. None the less the remarkable landscapes of the Fointenebleu painted by Corot and Courbet were touched. As well as the British ones by Turner.

The speaker treated many themes but he enhance three: Sunsets, Rivers and Forests. He also covered the execution time where the premises of Valenciennes were clear, the French painter and writer stated “the picture must be carried out quickly two hours maximum, one hour if is a sunset” as well as recommended artist to “paint several times the same landscape along the day”

The lecturer closed the conference with Monet’s Impression, soleil levant, showing with this beautiful picture the evolution of Plein Air Painting until it got to its climax, and as a matter of fact this was the painting that gave name to the movement “impressionism”.


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