Flood at
Port-Marly
1876
Flood at  Port-Marly  - 1876 - Musée d'Orsay

DEBUSSY - Bergamasque Suite, Moonligth (1905)  
 

Alfred Sisley died on January 29, 1899 in Moret-sur-Loing, of which he had painted, since 1880, so many landscapes.

With Sisley disappeared the only great Impressionist painter who did not meet success in his lifetime, in spite of moral and financial support offered to him by art dealers Paul Durand-Ruel and George Petit, and their efforts to have his work exhibited in Paris and abroad.

However, a year after his death, his painting "Flood at Port-Marly" (Orsay Museum - Paris) reached a high bidding at the Tavernier sale of March 6, 1900, while being sold to Count Isaac de Camondo. The success, which had been denied to Sisley during his life, stuck thus to his name as of the year following his death.

Sisley was exclusively a landscape painter, who, in the line of Corot, and with Monet, best sought and succeeded in expressing the most subtle nuances of nature in Impressionist landscapes.

British by his birth and his nationality, though he lived in France, he is also in the tradition of Constable, Bonington and Turner. If he was subject to the influence of Monet, he moves away from his friend by his will of construction which makes him respect the structure of forms.

 


Portrait of Sisley

1868
by RENOIR
E.G. Buhrle Collection
Zurich , Switzerland

PRE-WAR

Son of a well off British dealer established in Paris, Alfred Sisley was born in Paris in 1839. His father sends him in to London, where he will follow a commercial formation from 1857 to 1861, but Sisley intends to be a painter rather than a dealer, in spite of his father's will : he enters the School of Fine Arts of Paris in 1862, and also the workshop of Charles Gleyre, where he becomes friendly with Auguste Renoir , Claude Monet and Frédéric Bazille .

In 1864, at the same time as his friends, he leaves the School of Fine Arts at the moment Charles Gleyre ceases teaching there, and devotes himself to painting in open air in the area of Fontainebleau, at Chailly-en-Bière, then in Marlotte from 1865 to 1866, while living thanks to financial support which his father offers to him.


View of Canal Saint-Martin
1870
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

 

From his very beginnings, Sisley, just as Pissarro, devotes himself primarily to landscape painting and to alive representations of village streets or Parisian rivers.

He frequently meets Monet and Renoir to work with them. The early works of Alfred Sisley were influenced by the realism of Courbet, Corot and Daubigny.

An art critic writes about him, on the year of his death : "It is Corot who impresses him, the clear and silver plated Corot, at the same time light and solid, always broad, deep, infinite, Corot dreamer, calm and precise...".

He will be admitted to the Official Salon in 1866, 1868 and 1870 . His paintings show his keen interest for colored impressions of trees and buildings, and for the changing effects of light and clouds above the landscape
 

In the catalogue of the sale of Sisley's Workshop organized to the benefit of his children after his death, one can read under the feather of this same critic : "... in the small, hard-working and carefree group made up of Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Bazille, in Fontainebleau, he represents cheerfulness, spirit, imagination".

In June 1866, he marries Eugènie Lescouezec, a girl of a good family, model and florist, of whom he will have two children. Auguste Renoir will compose of them in 1868, a famous painting entitled " The engaged couple " (known as " Alfred Sisley and his wife ").

 


Alfred Sisley and his wife
by RENOIR, 1868
Wallraf-Richartz Museum
Cologne, Germany

In 1869, he settles in Louveciennes , 2 Street of the Princess.

AFTER-WAR

The franco-prussian war of 1870 will cause the ruin of his family, and Sisley, for the rest of his life, will no longer be a young man of good social standing, but an artist having to live with difficulty of his painting.

The civil war "La Commune de Paris" in 1871 makes him find refuge in London, where he meets the art dealer Durand-Ruel, who had opened a gallery to exhibit French artists.  He returns to France, in Louveciennes little after the events.

Now ruined, he is obliged to definitively leave Paris and Louveciennes in 1874 to settle opposite the Feeding at Marly-le-Roi .

 

In 1874 he is one of the 31 exhibitors of the first show of the Impressionists group, and will then expose at the following ones, in 1876 and 1877, without however gaining sympathy there, nor enthusiasm from critics.

He paints then primarily in Argenteuil, Marly and Bougival : " Boats at Bougival lock"-1873, "Snow in Louveciennes"-1874, "The flood at Port-Marly"  1876, are among his most outstanding works of that time.

 


Villeneuve-la-Garenne on the Seine
1872
Musée de l'Ermitage
Saint-Pétersbourg

He was not not going to leave Ile-de-France area any more, except for three short trips he will do, one in England in 1874, another in Normandy in 1894, and the last one in Wales in 1897.

In 1883, however Durand-Ruel devotes a particular exhibition to his works and buys some of his paintings, but the interest for Sisley paintings remains poor.



MORET-SUR-LOING

After 1880, Sisley went to settle in a solitary retirement, at Moret-sur-Loing, chief town of the canton of Seine-et-Marne, near Fontainebleau.


Poplars at Moret-sur-Loing,
august afternoon
1888
Private Collection

 

He will find there places of a sharp source of inspiration to him where he untiringly composes many paintings now famous, among which one can quote "Moret on Loing at sunrise" or "Poplars at Moret-sur-Loing " - 1888, " The Channel of Loing at Moret ", "The Street of the Pits at Moret " - 1892, or "The Bridge of Moret" - 1893.

He takes there an always intact pleasure to paint in the open air and in any season the landscapes of this area.


Alfred Sisley spends here the last years of his life, in simplicity, and dies in 1899, without having been granted French nationality which he asked for since 1895. It is only after his death that he will be recognized as one of the great Impressionist painter.

 

The pictorial language of Alfred Sisley was always strongly in keeping with Impressionism, but he also showed his attachment to his first inspirers, Corot and Daubigny.

However what really distinguishes him, is his constant discretion, the sensitivity of his inspiration, his liking of peaceful landscapes. There always was in his work a great humility in his attempt to retranscribe on the canvas the enchantment which he felt in front of real situations and landscapes.

Because his scope was indeed restricted to landscapes, in which a few characters sometimes act as decoration, without any really personal touch, many saw in Sisley's paintings a lack of artistic personality. In his days, he will be considered by art lovers only as a painter of the Impressionist movement painting in the style of Monet. However Sisley's paintings present a positive atmosphere of beauty, clearness and lightness, and represent a high degree of Impressionist accomplishment .

 


Le pont de Moret
1893
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

 

Other works by Alfred SISLEY