Morgan Samuel Price

A review by Jean Stern

The world of contemporary landscape and scenic painters is full of people who call themselves “plein air painters” but in truth: 1) are incapable of painting outdoors; 2) have little understanding of the tradition and purpose of painting outdoors; or 3) understand too well that many people will buy any painting that is presented as being “en plein air.”

Morgan Samuel Price is among the best of the true plein air painters of today, that is to say, artists who paint outdoors with the full conviction that the only way to capture the true, fluid effect of natural light is to paint outdoors, amidst that specific light.

Her newest book, Turn On the Light: a Touchstone of Plein Air Painting, is one of the most beautiful books I have seen this year. Each of the more than 200 paintings illustrated in this book was painted by Price. They are all remarkable, with a good number of them approaching superb. Among my favorites are June Light in Carmel (p. 37), Kiawah Pathway (p. 39), Morning Walk (cover and p. 51), Nancy’s Oak (p.52), Strolling Pathway (p. 56), and Sunlit Afternoon at Casper’s (p. 79). These delightful paintings shimmers with light, not just bright light, but light with the full force and beauty of a specific temporal fragment of the day. With Price’s paintings, the viewer can say with certainty, “this one was painted at 2:30 in the afternoon, on a hot and humid day” or another was painted “in later morning, just as the sun breaks through the haze in mid April.”

In addition to large, major paintings, Price shows some of her plein air oil sketches, such as Paul Fly Fishing (p.61), Shenandoah River at Dusk (p.73) and Oranges (p.94). Shenandoah River at Dusk is only 9 inches by 12 inches, and is painted with big, broad applications of tones, with hardly any attention to detail. Yet, Price has captured the effect of late afternoon glare on a balmy, wonderfully slow summer day. It brings to mind and heart the seemingly endless summer days of our youth, when time had no urgency and even less importance. All this on a small format, painted in barely a couple of hours, lest that nostalgic light pass into early darkness.

The text of “Turn On the Light” reads smoothly, with numerous glimpses of the inner artist. As we read on, we are allowed into the thoughts and emotions of Morgan Samuel Price, a creative process that is personal and unique to every artist.

In closing, “Turn On the Light” is an aptly named book, as Price focuses on the glorious light in each of her paintings. Indeed, it is a beautiful book that one will peruse endlessly, in awe of the beauty of nature and in admiration of the artistry of Morgan Samuel Price.