Alfred Sisley

Description: Alfred SISLEY (1839-1899) Lithograph Canal du Loing (1892)

Alfred Sisley (French: 30 October 1839 – 29 January 1899) was an Impressionist landscape painter who was born and spent most of his life in France, but retained British citizenship. He was the most consistent of the Impressionists in his dedication to painting landscape en plein air (i.e., outdoors). He deviated into figure painting only rarely and, unlike Renoir and Pissarro, found that Impressionism fulfilled his artistic needs.

Among his important works are a series of paintings of the River Thames, mostly around Hampton Court, executed in 1874, and landscapes depicting places in or near Moret-sur-Loing. The notable paintings of the Seine and its bridges in the former suburbs of Paris are like many of his landscapes, characterized by tranquillity, in pale shades of green, pink, purple, dusty blue and cream. Over the years Sisley’s power of expression and colour intensity increased.

Sisley’s student works are lost. His first landscape paintings are sombre, coloured with dark browns, greens, and pale blues. They were often executed at Marly and Saint-Cloud. Little is known about Sisley’s relationship with the paintings of J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, which he may have seen in London, but some have suggested that these artists may have influenced his development as an Impressionist painter, as may have Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.

La Seine au point du jour, 1877, Musée Malraux, Le Havre
He was inspired by the style and subject matter of previous modern painters Camille Pissarro and Edouard Manet. Among the Impressionists, Sisley has been overshadowed by Monet, whose work his resembles in style and subject matter, although Sisley’s effects are more subdued. Described by art historian Robert Rosenblum as having “almost a generic character, an impersonal textbook idea of a perfect Impressionist painting”, his work strongly invokes atmosphere, and his skies are always impressive. He concentrated on landscape more consistently than any other Impressionist painter.

Among Sisley’s best-known works are Street in Moret and Sand Heaps, both owned by the Art Institute of Chicago, and The Bridge at Moret-sur-Loing, shown at Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Allée des peupliers de Moret (The Lane of Poplars at Moret) has been stolen three times from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nice – once in 1978 when on loan in Marseilles (recovered a few days later in the city’s sewers), again in 1998 (when the museum’s curator was convicted of the theft and jailed for five years with two accomplices) and finally in August 2007 (on 4 June 2008 French police recovered it and three other stolen paintings from a van in Marseilles).

A large number of fake Sisleys have been discovered. Sisley produced some 900 oil paintings, some 100 pastels and many other drawings.