Yvonne M. Karn, A.S.A., is an expert in determining the value of California Plein Air Paintings.
California artists in late 1880’s to the early part of the 20th century painted the picturesque sunlit landscape and shoreline of California.
Plein-air is derived from the French ‘en Plein air ‘ meaning ‘in the open’ (air). This style which is often called California Impressionism or California Plein-Air painting combined several distinctive aspects of American and European art. The art of painting changed in the 1860’s the result of a systematic study of light and color and the preference by artists for on-site plein-air painting, modified the age- old effort of trying to duplicate the true representation of light to that of representing the effect of light in terms of a eye stimulus and response sensation.
In the 1870’s, the Impressionists and later the Neo-Impressionists in the 1880’s were aware of the published scientific investigations of physiological optics and became actively involved in these fields. Color was exciting and these artists brought the beautiful colors of the outdoors in their paintings. The dark paintings of the 1700’s and earlier were a sharp contrast to the Impressionists interpretation of true sunlight and colors in the open air. By 1900 Impressionism or what may be more properly termed ‘Impressionistic Realism’ was the style of choice among American painters.