What is plein air?
Artists worldwide are painting en plein air, venturing from their studios to paint along roadsides, atop mountains, by the sea, in gardens and in cities to capture landscapes, figures, and architecture in their natural elements.
Plein Air (French for "open air") painting became popular in the early nineteenth century in both Europe and America when paint manufacturers made a wide range of pre-mixed oil pigments available for the first time, and the easily transportable box easel, or pochade (quick sketch) box, was developed. Artists could finally take their work into the field with ease—the artist could, as Monet wrote, "paint the air in which are situated the bridge, the home, the boat."
Artists paint natural light, using color to define form. Plein air artists generally paint "ala prima," laying down a scene with quick broad, colorful brush strokes, foregoing the typical 'building up' of paint. Depending on the light and weather, plein air paintings are generally done in one session.
Plein air painting is a pursuit unlike any other painting technique. It challenges artists to concentrate completely on the information in front of them. Their senses absorb it all, from sight to sound, from temperature to atmosphere, and then channel these feelings into their vision in paint on paper or canvas.
Bath County is named for the English resort city of Bath, an ancient city visited for its healing spring waters since Roman times. For over 200 years Bath County has been defined but its natural beauty, the minerals springs that define some of its landscape, and southern hospitality. Located along the western, central border with West Virginia, Bath County encompasses 540 square miles. 89% of Bath County is comprised of forest, with 51% in national forest and 6% under state park.
From the earliest days when weary travelers stopped to rejuvenate in the healing springs, now known as the Jefferson Pools, tourism has played a major role in the development of Bath County. Since the first Homestead Resort was built in 1766, the community of Hot Springs has been a nationally recognized four season resort attraction. The popularity of “taking the waters” in the mid-18th century secured Bath County’s place as a tourism attraction.
Bath County is an ideal place for plein air painting. The county and surrounding area are endowed with a rich history of art and have been a destination for artists for centuries. Most notable is Edward Beyer, who came his wife came from Germany in the late 1840s. Beyer traveled extensively in Virginia, especially western Virginia, creating panoramic paintings of the Shenandoah Valley. As a plein air painter Beyer’s paintings provide a vivid, colorful tour of western Virginia locales in the mid-nineteenth century.
Bath County possesses a stunning collection of beautiful landscapes, panoramic vistas, historic architecture and an abundance of southern charm.
Preservation Bath is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Bath County’s cultural and architectural heritage. Preservation Bath seeks to protect endangered places. Historic places need our attention. Destruction, development and deterioration rob us of places that tell our story. In concert with others, Preservation Bath works to shine a spotlight on special places in our community. The attention being paid to the Gibson Cottage, built in the 1840’s on the grounds of the Warm Springs Hotel, illustrates the advantages of working in collaboration with preservation partners—the Bath County Historical Society, Preservation Virginia and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Preservation Bath is working with our preservation partners to support the efforts of The Omni Homestead Resort to rehabilitate the Warm Springs Pools. Other properties have been lost to indifference and neglect. A percentage of sales from the 2016 Festival will go toward Preservation Bath.