Here we have a wonderful portrait depicting a gentleman artist painting outdoors. The man stands in a green rural landscape with his canvas on its easel. He absent-mindedly smokes on his pipe while he paints. With the collection of supplies that lie at his feet and the paint brushes that are held in both hands, it is clear that the artist has been engrossed in his activity for a while.
The paint application in this work is noteworthy, particularly the rendering of the paint palette that the gentleman is holding and the articulation of the sky. In the sky there is minimal variation in colour or tone. However, with thick application of paint a real sense of movement has been achieved as clear directionality has been created through each clear brushstroke. Similarly, in depicting the the artist’s palette thick impasto paint has been applied to the canvas, conveying to us, quite literally, the materials that this gentleman artist has been mixing.
The plein air approach of painting was pioneered by John Constable in Britain, however, the popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paints in tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes). Previously, painters made their own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil, a much more laborious and messy process.
On the reverse of this painting is a head and shoulder portrait of a man, painted in a landscape composition.