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Drawing in the Open Air: Variations in Drawing from Nature in the First Half of the 19th Century

After developing strongly in 17th-century France (and Europe), drawing in the open air, from the motif, became current practice in the 18th. By the 19th century, it was considered a vital part of the training of young artists; constantly evolving, it became a primary aspect of the history of drawing.

The meanings of the expressions “from nature,” “after nature,” “from life,” and “from the motif” fluctuated, vague, covering as much observation and scientific study as study sketches, student exercises, architectural surveys, military drawings, drawing from memory, travel illustrations, or the barest sketch of some fleeting impression. Drawing from nature gradually became viewed as an artwork in its own right, a finished piece with its own justification and purpose.

With special support from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the cooperation of the Musée d’Orsay, the exhibition puts on display over 100 drawings and etchings, and some thirty sketchbooks—the “plein-air’ painter’s quintessential tool.

The exhibition groups over one hundred drawings and etchings, along with around thirty sketchbooks, the ultimate instrument of plein-air drawing.

Organized by Marie-Pierre Salé, with the collaboration of Hélène Grollemund, Department of Prints and Drawings, Musée du Louvre.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, 18th Century, 19th Century, Etching

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