En Plein Air: The Best Parks in London to Paint Outdoors
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En Plein Air: The Best Parks in London to Paint Outdoors

Channel your inner Impressionist in some of London's greenest spaces

Painters have been flocking to London‘s parks for as long as they have been open, setting up their easels and paintbrushes for a day of painting ‘en plein air’. A term first coined by the French Impressionists, painting ‘en plein air’ (or, put simply, painting outside) gives artists the freedom to paint whatever they see in front of them – capturing that moment in time like a sensory photograph. Painting outdoors – whatever the weather – is a great way to relax. And, with the natural world right in front of you, there’s more than enough inspiration to go round. These are the best London parks to paint outdoors, having inspired paintings throughout the centuries, from Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro to Canaletto and Stanley Clare Grayson.

The Best Parks In London To Paint Outdoors

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The Best Parks in London to Paint En Plein Air - Richmond Park

Richmond Park

With Richmond being the old stomping grounds for the likes of JMW Turner, Spencer Gore and Sir Godfrey Kneller, it’s safe to say that the London borough is a popular spot for the artsy crowd. Richmond Park is known for its expansive woodland gardens, home to deer herds and historic woodlands alike. English painter Willliam Bennett took to the brushes in 1852 to paint In Richmond Park, detailing the unruly natural landscape in earthy watercolours.

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The Best Parks in London to Paint En Plein Air - Regents Park

The Regent’s Park

One of central London’s largest parks, The Regent’s Park combines large open spaces with tree-lined pathways and formal gardens (as well as a huge outdoor sports area) to give visitors all the room they need to relax, play games, or get up to a spot of sketching. The park is great for capturing landscaped vistas, with all kinds of details hiding in the undergrowth to be explored with your paintbrush. May, in Regent’s Park (1851) by Charles Allston Collins perfectly captures the serene atmosphere of the park with sweeping views over the wider landscape and ponds.

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The Best Parks in London to Paint En Plein Air - Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens has long been a firm favourite for painters wanting to try out the ‘en plein air’ trend. Danish-French artist Camille Pissarro took to painting outdoors throughout his time as an Impressionist painter. He visited London in the early 1870s, and later produced multiple paintings depicting various parks and gardens from the city. Kensington Gardens (1890) shows a beautiful view over the boardwalk to Kensington Palace, where families play on the banks by the pond.

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Deck Chairs in Green Park

Green Park

Green Park spans over 40 acres of lush green and trees, and is located right next to Buckingham Palace. The deck chairs scattered throughout the park make it a great place for people-watching (or people-doodling), so make sure to grab a seat and take everything in as you get your painter’s cap on. Claude Monet had the same idea back in the nineteenth century, when he painted Green Park, London in c.1870. The founder of the Impressionist movement depicts a wintery day in the city, more specifically the muddy paths bisecting Green Park and Piccadilly with views over Hyde Park Corner.

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St. James's Park in London

St James’s Park

Surrounded by Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Whitehall, St James’s Park is great for exploring. Stay long enough and you might spot a pelican or two; the birds have lived in the park since the Russian Ambassador gifted them to King Charles II nearly 400 years ago. As expected, the park has inspired many painters throughout the years. Italian painter Canaletto’s 1749 painting London: The Old Horse Guards from St James’s Park depicts the old Horse Guards building in the park (the one we see today was built in the 1750s), with a view over Downing Street on the right hand side.

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Serpentine bridge, Hyde Park, London, England, UK

Hyde Park

Located in the heart of London, Hyde Park has been known to hold events of all sizes since it first opened. Go for the painting possibilities, but stay for the views over the lake, the nearby Serpentine Gallery, or even the opportunity to have a go at horse riding. Alongside the likes of Pissarro, Stanley Clare Grayson took to painting Hyde Park during his career. In 1953, Grayson painted The Coronation Procession, Hyde Park, showing Queen Elizabeth II’s return procession through the park following her crowning.

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Kyoto Garden in Holland Park

Holland Park

Once home to many British artists in the 1860s, including William Holman Hunt, Sir James Jebusah Shannon and the ‘Holland Park Circle’ artists, Holland Park continues to inspire artists today as the Royal Borough’s largest park. Featuring large areas of woodland and a Kyoto Garden complete with koi and peacocks, the park is a perfect source of inspiration for anyone with art block. The park even has its own 11-panel mural in Holland House by Shanghai artist Mao Wen Biao, Garden Part in the Grounds of Holland Park, 1870s (1994-1995), which reconstructs one of the Earl of Ilchester’s famous garden parties.

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