Painting outdoors was first popularised by the French Impressionists, including Monet and Renoir, and is known by the French term en plein air (literally "in the open air"). The Wexford-based Art in the Open is Europe's largest plein air festival and one of Ireland's most enjoyable – and least known – arts festivals. The annual event, which ended on Tuesday, is now in its seventh year, and this year attracted 169 artists from 11 countries including Ireland, the UK, the US, Italy and Germany.
Participants – a mix of established and aspiring artists – spent six consecutive days painting in six different locations in the south-east. The festival's organiser, Alma Hynes, said this year's itinerary gave artists "the opportunity to paint the stunning scenery" in Courtown, Graiguenamanagh, Enniscorthy, Clonegal, Passage East/Ballyhack and Wexford town.
The festival proved popular with local residents, who got a rare chance to meet with and see artists at work interpreting local landmarks and landscapes.
Participants, especially those from overseas, stay in accommodation in Wexford and are bussed daily to the various “paint -out” locations and can attend on-site workshops.
The week ended with each artist invited to submit two paintings each to a selling exhibition at White’s Hotel in Wexford, which ended on Wednesday. The paintings were nicely framed and modestly-priced – from about €100 up but most below €500. The sale continues online at wexfordgallery.ie.
The artists also competed for a prize fund totalling €5,000, and 11 awards were handed out, with the top prize, the gold Mayoral Award of €1,000, won by Irish artist Mary Duffy for Purple Rasta Tree. Silver category winners were Stephen Brennan (Ireland); Valerie Craig (USA); and Frances Murray (Ireland). Bronze category winners were Nikolai Kraneis (Germany); Maria Levinge (Ireland); Patricia McLoughlin (Ireland); John McManus (Ireland); Inez Nordell (Ireland) and Michael Rowley (Ireland). The award for Best Young Emerging Talent was won by Toby Neve (England).
The organisers said the festival “has given rise to many international friendships and introduced many Irish and overseas visitors to the varied delights of the landscape of south east Ireland” and has “a relaxed and cultured ambience one normally associates with centres like Venice, Paris or the south of France where easels, paint and canvases on the street are not so remarkable”.
Budding – and established – artists interested in participating in the festival in 2015 can find out more information from the festival website artintheopen.org.