Open-Air Painter, 1886
Oil on canvas, 119 x 209 cm
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, NM 2546
Standing as a symbol of the break with tradition which Realism and plein air painting represented is Carl Larsson's large canvas Open-Air Painter, 1886. Truth was the all-overshadowing goal of the new art, making new demands regarding the direct study of nature and broadening the field of artistic endeavour to include aspects of reality not previously regarded as aesthetically appealing. However, the insistence on artists as far as possible recording their impressions in front of the motif faced those Nordic painters who had trained in France with the problem of transplanting plein air painting to the cold climate of the North. Open-Air Painter, which Larsson exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1886, shows, not without humour, the artist himself in full winter gear, attempting to set a good example by painting a wintry back garden. It confirms Realism's contention that no part of reality is without content, at the same time as the seemingly random cropping of the composition reinforces the impression that the picture captures a moment in time.