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plein air

[pleyn air; French ple ner] /ˈpleɪn ˈɛər; French plɛ ˈnɛr/
the open air, especially the daylight of outdoors.
Fine Arts. the quality of light and atmosphere out of doors, especially this quality as rendered in painting.
Origin of plein air
1890-95; < French: literally, full air


[pleyn-air; French ple-ner] /ˌpleɪnˈɛər; French plɛˈnɛr/
pertaining to a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in France in the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio.
designating a painting executed out of doors and representing a direct response to the scene or subject in front of the artist.
(of a painting) having the qualities of air and natural light.
1890-95; adj. use of plein air
Related forms
plein-airism, noun
plein-airist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for plein air
Historical Examples
  • He had resolved before actually starting upon his picture to make some plein air studies of the islanders.

    Tongues of Conscience Robert Smythe Hichens
  • His hopes became centred in a large painting, which he called plein air, intended for exhibition in the Salon.

    A Zola Dictionary J. G. Patterson
  • All the members of the club were young—of the new rebellious school of 'plein air'—the afternoon promised to be amusing.

    The History of David Grieve Mrs. Humphry Ward
British Dictionary definitions for plein air


/ˌpleɪnˈɛə; French plɛnɛr/
of or in the manner of various French 19th-century schools of painting, esp impressionism, concerned with the observation of light and atmosphere effects outdoors
Derived Forms
plein-airist (ˌpleɪnˈɛərɪst) noun
Word Origin
C19: from French phrase en plein air in the open (literally: full) air
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for plein air



1894, from French phrase en plein air, literally "in the open air." The style developed among French impressionists c.1870.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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