[Matplotlib-devel] High priority for 3.2: figure cleanup

Antony Lee antony.lee at institutoptique.fr
Tue Apr 16 11:54:29 EDT 2019

It's actually not clear to me how GUI-closing and really closing are
related (unless we decided that GUI closing means teardown, but I don't
think we *need* that), and what the "latent figures" concept is supposed to
Doesn't this approximately come down to
1) when calling plt.close(fig), do fig.clf() -> ax.cla()
2) in ax.cla(), before doing ax.lines = [], first do for line in ax.lines:
line.remove()? (and similarly for other artists)
Also, note that if one just wants to dump figures to your hard drive in a
loop, I would strongly suggest not bothering with pyplot as all and just do
"fig = matplotlib.figure.Figure(); ax = fig.subplots(); etc."  The main
issue with this approach is that it's a bit awkward to pop up a figure if
one decides, after all, that they want to interactively play with it; a
possibility would be to allow pyplot to "adopt" figures in a post-hoc
manner via plt.show([fig1, fig2, ...]) (

On Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 5:41 PM Jody Klymak <jklymak at uvic.ca> wrote:

> I think if it makes our lives easier the paradigm that a closed window
> means the figure is closed programmatically is pretty straightforward and
> standard across GUI interfaces.  If folks need a workflow where they access
> the figure while it’s open they can turn off blocking.  I vote we keep it
> simple and predictable rather than tie ourselves in knots with complicated
> ways of keeping track of what we think the user may want to do.
> Cheers.  Jody
> Sent from my iPhone
> > On Apr 16, 2019, at 12:19 AM, Eric Firing <efiring at hawaii.edu> wrote:
> >
> >
> > In today's weekly meeting, with Hannah, Thomas, and myself, we discussed
> https://github.com/matplotlib/matplotlib/issues/8519, which points to the
> long-standing problem that matplotlib relies on garbage collection to
> release memory after a figure is closed.  With some work-flows the
> automatic collection doesn't happen often enough and the user must
> explicitly trigger it.  It would be better if pyplot cleaned up after
> itself, breaking reference cycles when a figure is closed.  I think it is
> time to make this change, so I marked the issue "Release-critical". I am
> hoping we can get this done as a high-priority task, *early* in the 3.2
> cycle.
> >
> > The central point is that closing a figure should clear it, and clearing
> it should recursively walk through the children, breaking connections and
> reference cycles all the way down.  One possibility would be to modify or
> replace the figure object such that any attempt to operate on the figure
> after closing would fail by raising an informative exception.
> >
> > Question: should closing the gui window also close the figure?  No,
> because that would prevent the user from calling savefig on it.  This would
> interfere with a reasonable use-case, in which plt.show is used in blocking
> mode, the window is closed, and the figure is saved via savefig.  Problem:
> if closing the gui window doesn't close the figure, how can it ever be
> closed?
> >
> > This leads to the suggestion that the pyplot state manager keep a list
> of "latent figures" which are no longer displayed in a gui window but have
> not been closed.  They could then be explicitly closed by
> "plt.close('all')".  This also opens the possibility for an API allowing
> one to re-display a figure after closing its gui window. For example, one
> might do a calculation, show it in a figure in a blocking window with
> "plt.show", close the window, do additional calculations, add them to the
> same figure, and bring the figure back in a new gui window.  This might be
> done in a loop, incrementing the contents of the figure.
> >
> > See also:
> > https://github.com/matplotlib/matplotlib/issues/6793
> > https://github.com/matplotlib/matplotlib/issues/6982
> >
> > Eric
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