Painting outdoors

Detail from Alfred Sisley (1839–1899), The Banks of the Canal du Loing at Saint- Mammès, 1888
Detail from Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894), Banks of a Canal, near Naples, 1872
While some Impressionists enjoyed portraying the hustle and bustle of city life, others preferred to paint landscapes or scenes of people relaxing in the countryside. The mid-nineteenth century saw developments in transport which made it much easier for artists to explore scenic locations outside Paris. The invention of portable malleable-lead paint tubes in 1841 also made open-air painting much more practical.
Detail from Claude-Oscar Monet (1840–1926), Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat, 1874
Detail from Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796–1875), Willows, c.1860
Monet Renoir, and Sisley spent time in the countryside, observing nature and painting en plein air (outdoors, directly from nature). Impressionist artists were not the first to venture out of the studio and into nature. They were influenced by the work of a group of artists known as the Barbizon School.
In the 1860s Barbizon painters, such as Corot and Daubigny, worked outdoors, making drawings and oil sketches of the scenery and people around the village of Barbizon and the Forest of Fontainebleau. They would then work these preparatory sketches into finished oil paintings back in the studio. The naturalistic paintings of the Barbizon painters inspired the younger Impressionist artists to break with tradition and experiment in observing and recording nature, as they saw it, outdoors. Of course, Impressionist painters did not complete paintings outdoors in a single attempt; they would revisit their canvases in the studio, but retain the sense of spontaneity through their free brush work.