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What is En Plein Air?

In the mid-1800’s, Impressionist artists began painting in the outdoors, or ‘En Plein Air’ – a French term meaning ‘in the open air’.   Prior to the invention of the metal tube in the 1840’s, most landscapes were painted in the artists’ studios as they had no way to store or transport their hand-mixed paints.  Impressionism is one of the best-known art movements of the past two centuries.  It began to flourish as artists around the world left their studios to study the light and atmosphere in nature and paint on site with their now transportable tubes of paint.

Today artists seek to capture that same intriguing light and shadow outdoors and gather in ‘plein air’ events across the country, continuing this tradition.


Figures in a Landscape (ca. 1883) by Georges Seurat.
Original from The National Gallery of Art.
Digitally enhanced by rawpixel. (50434034853).jpg


Plein Air painting in Texas

In 1876 artist Frank Reaugh (1860-1945) settled near Terrell, Texas. By 1890, Reaugh and his students were making annual sketching trips, eventually custom building the “Cicada” an open-air touring bus to paint on location across west Texas. Two of these students were San Angelo natives, Mollie Crowther (1867 - 1927) and Helen King Kendall (1895-1946)

In 1921, in Christoval, south of San Angelo, Crowther and Kendall co-founded the Texas Artists Camp. It was attended by local artists José Arpa, Xavier Gonzalez, and Adele Brunet. The camp grew to be one of the leading plein air gatherings in the Southwest.

Find out more about San Angelo and surrounding Concho Valley under the TOUR SAN ANGELO






A century later, the same inspiration that attracted those early painters to travel out west is alive today. EnPleinAirTEXAS Competition has become one of the Top 5 plein air competitions in the country, attracting award-winning artists from around the world.  

To expand on this success, the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts has launched an EnPleinAirTEXAS Ranch Fellowship.

EnPleinAirTEXAS is a signature event of The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts.  The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a member of the Texas Association of Museums and has received multiple national awards.

EnPleinAirTEXAS prestige and success stands on the talent and recognition of its participating artists.  The selection for inclusion in the competition and the competition judging is done by nationally respected art jurors and judges.  Awards given by a museum are more highly regarded among all artists.  The paintings are exhibited and are for sale during the final weekend in the Stables Building at Fort Concho, a National Historic Landmark built in 1868 and near the site of the original home of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. 

The Ranch Fellowship is offered exclusively to past EnPleinAirTEXAS Competition artists. This preserves the prestige of the fellowship and entices continuous participation in the competition.


Suzie Baker, EnPleinAirTEXAS 2022 award winner

Community Engagement & Support

Sponsors: generous community support allows EnPleinAirTEXAS to offer attractive prize money, organize singular events and access to ranches and painting sites unique to San Angelo and the Concho Valley. 

Volunteers: individual and nonprofit members promote San Angelo, helping the event run smoothly.

Local artists: attend painting workshops and join en plein air painting days with visiting artists.

Collaborations: over the years, EnPleinAirTEXAS has teamed up with the San Angelo Roping Fiesta and the Hispanic Heritage Museum’s "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) festival along the river downtown.    

San Angelo’s youth: EnPleinAirTEXAS enriches San Angelo students coordinating artists engagement opportunities with local SAISD schools.



San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts
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