Alfred Sisley, french landscape painter and one
of the creators of the French Impressionist movement.
Sisley was born in Paris on October 30, 1839
to bourgeois British parents. After his schooldays, his father,
a merchant trading with the southern states of America, sent him
to London for a business career, but finding this unpalatable,
Sisley returned to Paris in 1862 with the aim of becoming an artist.
|Avenue of Chestnut Trees, 1867
Southampton Art Gallery.
His family gave him every support and his father
arranged for the twenty-three year old to enter the studio of
the history painter Charles Gleyre, where he met Renoir, Monet
and Bazille. Though none of the four felt a particular affinity
for the highly academic Gleyre, it was young Monet's personality-clash
with the master that resulted in the group leaving the studio
and setting out on their own.
Inseparable for a time, the group traveled and
painted together. Sisley spent some time painting in Fontainebleau,
at Chailly with Monet, Bazille and Renoir, and later at Marlotte
with Renoir. Sisley's early style was deeply influenced by Corot,
Courbet and Daubigny whom he met while working around Paris with
his companions. When he first exhibited at the Salon in 1867 it
was as the pupil of Corot.
|The Seine at Bougival, 1873
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
By that time, however, he had started to frequent
the Café Guerbois, and was becoming more deeply influenced by
the notions which were creating Impressionism. By 1870, he had
adopted the short rapid impressionist brushstroke and like Monet
remained faithful to the technique throughout his career. He was
interested in capturing the movement of foliage, the shimmer of
water, and the texture of cloud-filled skies.
During the Franco-Prussian war and the period
of the Commune (1870-1871), he went to London where he exhibited
and was introduced to Durand-Ruel by Pissarro, becoming part of
that dealer's stable. He returned for an exhibition in London
Upon the death of his father in 1872, Sisley
learned that the family business lay in ruins. Having been financially
supported by his family, Sisley never had to worry about having
to earn his living as an artist. For the first time, he was forced
to paint with a commercial mind-set in order to support his family.
|The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1872
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
He now was a full-time professional painter and
part of the Impressionist group, exhibiting with them in 1874,
1876, 1877 and 1882. At L'Exposition des Indépendants, the first
Impressionist show at Nadar's, Sisley exposed no less than twenty-one
canvases. His work had by this time achieved complete independance
from the early influences that had affected him. In the 1870s
he produced a remarkable series of landscapes of Argenteuil, where
he was living, one of which, The Bridge at Argenteuil
(1872; Brooks Memorial Gallery, Memphis, USA) was bought by Manet.
|Flood at Pont-Marly, 1876
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Towards the end of the decade Monet was beginning
to have a considerable influence on him. A serie of landscape
paintings of the area around Paris, including Marly, Bougival
and Louveciennes (1876, Floods at Port-Marly, Musée
d'Orsay), shows the way in which his dominant and evident lyricism
still respects the demands of the subject-matter.
|Snow at Véneux-Nadon 1880
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
From his early admiration for Corot he retained
a passionate interest in the sky, which nearly always dominates
his paintings, and also in the effects of snow, the two interests
often combining to create a strangely dramatic effect (1880; Snow
at Véneux; Musée d'Orsay).
|Eglise de Moret, 1894
Musée du Petit Palais, Paris
Primarily a landscapist, Sisley preferred the
countryside around the Ile de-France with its unique and subtle
beauty in all seasons. To this he brought a soft, muted palette
with warm greens, blue-greens, pale yellows, and clear blues predominating.
Sisley in 1876, moved southward to paint landscapes around Moret-sur-Loing,
south of the Forest of Fontainebleau.
In the 1880's Sisley began to sell more of his
work, with the help of the dealer Durand-Ruel, who put on a successful
exhibition in New York, where there was a new interest in the
Impressionists. It was only towards the end of his life, that
he received something approaching the recognition he deserved.
In 1899, sending for Monet, who hurried to his
side, he died in Moret-sur-Loing of a cancer of the throat, at
the age of sixty. Within a year his canvases were fetching high