Thomas Kinkade is one of the best-selling painters of the contemporary era. Kinkade is generally considered to be a painter of the Plein Air school, an artistic tradition in which painters work outdoors in order to best capture the effects of natural light. While the most famous Plein Air painters have been affiliated with the Barbizon and Impressionist movements of the past, a number of artists continue to paint in this style today.
Barbizon School Painters
The Barbizon School refers to a group of painters active in the rural Fontainebleau region of France from approximately 1830 to 1870. Barbizon painters were among the first to paint in the open air, using natural light to capture the drama of nature and rural life.
At a time when only neoclassical paintings were taken seriously, Barbizon greats like Jean-Francois Millet, Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot and Theodore Rousseau turned their attention to the everyday experience of French peasants. Their beautiful paintings continue to inspire Plein Air artists today.
French Impressionist Painters
Like the Barbizon painters, French impressionists did much of their painting outside. The impressionists were a loose group of painters largely centered on Pairs and its surroundings, which was active in the final three decades of the 19th century.
French impressionists were particularly interested in capturing the changing effects of light on natural and built landscapes. Impressionists like Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Camille Pissarro stand out as some of the most famous artists of all time.
Other Impressionist Painters
Inspired by the French impressionists, painters throughout Europe and the United States began imitating their style and method. Alfred Sisley and Philip Wilson Steer brought Impressionism to England. The movement also flourished in the United States, with painters like Mary Cassat, Childe Hassam and William Merritt Chase helping define the American avant-garde of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Contemporary Plein Air Painters
The Plein Air tradition continues to thrive in America today. Jean LeGassick paints on-site in frigid Alaskan conditions to capture the raw beauty of the arctic landscape. Charles Sovek renders Cape Cod's rich maritime history in oil, while Ron Rencher depicts the sparse scenery and colorful town life of the New Mexico desert.