Informal, experimental and often incomplete, the oil sketches in Painting from Nature were never meant to be exhibited.
They were the artist’s private studies, and considered of little value to anyone else.
The landscape oil sketch became an important part of an artist’s training in the eighteenth century. Sketching directly from nature was nothing new, but previously artists had preferred to use pencil, watercolour or ink.
Oil paints were sometimes used, but usually considered too inconvenient to take outside the studio.
Gradually artists began to recognize that oil paints provided new possibilities for describing colour, texture and light quickly and effectively.
By the 1780s, landscape painters all over Europe were sketching with oils in the open air, usually on paper or small wooden panels. Today many oil sketches are admired for their freshness and spontaneity – qualities that are often missing from the more refined studio works of the day.
The immediacy of sketching in oils outdoors contributed to the development of Impressionism in the nineteenth century.
National Museum Cardiff