Sheridan Arts Foundation: 14th Annual Telluride Plein Air

Telluride’s Sheridan Arts Foundation (SAF) hosts 21 nationally recognized plein air artists Wednesday, June 28- Tuesday, July 4, 2017. The group gathers in Telluride for the 14th annual Telluride Plein Air. Artists will spend a week painting outside capturing the light, color, and unique character of this breathtaking region, including the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. A three-day Art Exhibition and Sale will be held on July 2, 3 and 4, 2017 displaying the completed works of flower-filled meadows, majestic mountains, and colorful downtown scenes. Artists typically paint 10 to 20 pieces, culminating in more than 250 works to view and purchase over the course of the sale. (Only 8-10 pieces may be displayed at one time.)

This  week, the Telluride region plays host to 21 nationally recognized artists, who will plant easels in alleys, down by the river, smack dab in the middle of Colorado Avenue, and hidden away in various other nooks and crannies of Mother Nature, heads covered to protect from the Colorado sun, brushes flying, canvases exploding with color and light.

It’s time for the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s 14th annual Telluride Plein Air, an art event celebrating outdoor painting in and around the Telluride region, Wednesday, June 28 – Tuesday, July 4. The event is a fundraiser for the non-profit to benefit community programming and restoration at the historic Sheridan Opera House in Telluride. The Sheridan Opera House has provided quality entertainment to Telluride for the past 103 years. All profits from the sale of the artwork is split with 40 percent benefiting the Sheridan Arts Foundation’s community programming; 60 percent retained by the artists. 

What’s it all about? Well, “plein air” is a concept first associated with the French Impressionists and in that context is shorthand for “very spendy, but would look great in your living room if you could afford one.”

Just kidding.

The story actually begins with Eugene Boudin, one of the more adventurous 19th-century painters, known primarily for his beach scenes and seascapes of northern France, and luminous skies. When Boudin taught his young student, Claude Monet, the importance of painting a scene directly from nature in the light, in the air, just as it was, painting en plein air was born. In the stroke of Monet’s agitated brush, the dark palette of Realism (and the Barbizon School) gave way to the brighter highlights of painting directly from nature.

Monet quickly introduced friends such as Renoir, Sisley, Bazille, Manet, Degas, and Bonnard to the core idea of the discipline: record only what is visible at given distances under specific lighting conditions. In December 1873, outdoor painting sessions and heated café discussions among young artists of the day culminated in the Société Anonyme des Artists. The group’s first show, April 15, 1874, included an image by Monet of dawn over a foggy harbor entitled “Impression: Sunrise.” One critic wrote a satirical review, sniffing at the Monet, and in one stroke of a venomous pen, he popularized the term “Impressionism,” now synonymous with plein air painting.

The first important Impressionist work to be shown in America was Manet’s “Execution of the Emperor Maximilian,” banned by Paris censors and politically inflammatory. According to art critic Robert Hughes, in 1879 the image was brought to New York and Boston by an opportunistic singer named Madame Ambre, who put on a show to generate publicity for her recitals.

In 1886, a popular French art dealer mounted the first professional show of Impressionist images at the American Art Association’s galleries. Thus began America’s love affair with fine European works of art. In a heartbeat, American artists began to adopt plein air techniques. Much late-19th and early 20th-century painting stems from reactions to Impressionism’s basic tenets. Today in the U.S. alone, there are 500+ registered Plein Air painters.

Artists attending the 2017 Telluride Plein Air were selected through a juried process in which applicants submitted images and a biography are reviewed by a panel of artists, gallery owners, and educators. The top sellers from the 2016 event were also invited back to participate in the 2017 Telluride Plein Air. The top five sellers from last year, in no particular order, were: Susie Baker, Douglas Morgan, Wayne McKenzie, Mat Barber Kennedy, and Christine Lashley. Bill Meuser, the 2016 Artist Choice Winner, also returns as SAF’s special guest artist.

2017 Plein Air artists:

Suzie Baker, TX

Mat Barber Kennedy, IL

Jill Banks, VA

Kim Casebeer, KS

David Dallison, IL

Nita Harper, CA

Liz Haywood-Sullivan, MA

Jacqueline Jones, CT

Kathleen Lanzoni, CO

Christine Lashley, VA

Betty Liles, KY

Susan Lynn, MO

Wayne McKenzie, CA

Bill Meuser, CO

Suzanne Morris, VA

Rita Pacheco, CA

Tim Peterson, SD

Richard Prather, NM

Edward Reed, VA

Tony Winters, NY

Michael Wyszynski, CO

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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