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‘Chasing the Light’ honours island’s plein air tradition

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Plein air artist Eli Cedrone at work (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Chasing the Light, an exhibit by “plein air” artist Eli Cedrone is on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.

The term “plein air” implies that the work was created outdoors, in front of the subject being depicted.

Because of shifting light and weather conditions however, it is incumbent on plein air artists to work fairly quickly. This approach to painting is therefore characteristically energetic, often colourful and with fairly loose brushwork.

These are qualities evident in the paintings of Ms Cedrone and it must be said, her work has great appeal.

She claims Richard Schmid, John Singer Sargent, Joaquin Sorolla and Anders Zorn as influences. That of Sorolla is clearly evident.

There are 34 oil paintings in the exhibition, all of modest size and price.

Chasing the Light, an exhibit by Eli Cedrone, is now on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art (Photograph supplied)

Much of the history of painting by Bermudians, going back to about 1850, has been plein air. Most were watercolourists, although some did branch out into using oil paint. It has been said that Lucy Trott Watlington and her sister, Eliza Trott Zuill (my grandmother), were the first locals to produce plein air oil landscapes.

Although many local plein air artists are still watercolourists, a considerable number now utilise oil or acrylic paint and possibly other media as well. Today’s media choices are now considerably greater than they were a century ago.

In recent years there has been a more organised group of Bermuda plein air artists working regularly together and shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, they were responsible for organising a plein air festival, in which overseas artists participated. Hopefully with the opening up of Bermuda to tourism after Covid, this festival can be resurrected.

Plein air art goes back at least to the beginning of the 19th century and possibly as far as the 18th century. In this instance I am thinking of the early watercolour landscapes of J.M.W. Turner and his compatriot John Constable and his oil landscape studies

What made this approach to art making a practical possibility – especially in regard to oil paint – was the invention of the painting tube in 1830.

Chasing the Light, an exhibit by Eli Cedrone, is now on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art (Photograph supplied)

Before that, artists had to produce their own paints from dry pigment, which they mixed with an oil medium. It was then stored in pigs’ bladders. Before this tube invention, transporting oil paint outdoors was not an easy matter.

The visit of Princess Louise to Bermuda during the winter of 1883, and the fact that she took the opportunity while here to create a series of plein air landscapes was a great encouragement for others to do the same.

Such renowned artists as Winslow Homer, Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, Clark Voorhees and many others have since made Bermuda a plein air painter’s haven. Indeed, by the 1920s Bermuda had become something of an artist’s colony.

Chasing the Light, an exhibit by Eli Cedrone, is now on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art (Photograph supplied)

In her artist’s statement Ms Cedrone acknowledged the illustrious shoulders upon which her art stands. She wrote, “I’m honoured to be a part of this enduring tradition.”

Chasing the Light is a beauty. It is a show all art lovers will want to see and is on at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art until Tuesday.

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Published February 04, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated February 06, 2023 at 8:00 am)

‘Chasing the Light’ honours island’s plein air tradition

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