Alfred Sisley (/ˈsɪsli/; French: [sislɛ]; 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
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.
3 Selected works
7 External links
Alfred Sisley and his Wife, 1868
Molesey Weir – Morning, one of the paintings executed by Sisley on
his visit to Britain in 1874
Rest along the Stream. Edge of the Wood, 1878, Musée d'Orsay
Sisley was born in Paris to affluent British parents. His father,
William Sisley, was in the silk business, and his mother, Felicia
Sell, was a cultivated music connoisseur.
In 1857, at the age of 18, Sisley was sent to London to study for a
career in business, but he abandoned it after four years and returned
to Paris in 1861. From 1862, he studied at the Paris École des
Beaux-Arts within the atelier of Swiss artist Marc-Charles-Gabriel
Gleyre, where he became acquainted with Frédéric Bazille, Claude
Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Together they would paint landscapes
en plein air rather than in the studio, in order to capture the
transient effects of sunlight realistically. This approach, innovative
at the time, resulted in paintings more colourful and more broadly
painted than the public was accustomed to seeing. Consequently, Sisley
and his friends initially had few opportunities to exhibit or sell
their work. Their works were usually rejected by the jury of the most
important art exhibition in France, the annual Salon. During the
1860s, though, Sisley was in a better financial position than some of
his fellow artists, as he received an allowance from his father.
In 1866, Sisley began a relationship with Eugénie Lesouezec
(1834–1898; also known as Marie Lescouezec), a Breton living in
Paris. The couple had two children: son Pierre (born 1867) and
daughter Jeanne (1869). At the time, Sisley lived not far from
Avenue de Clichy and the Café Guerbois, the gathering-place of many
In 1868, his paintings were accepted at the Salon, but the exhibition
did not bring him financial or critical success; nor did subsequent
In 1870, the
Franco-Prussian War began; as a result, Sisley's father's
business failed, and the painter's sole means of support became the
sale of his works. For the remainder of his life he would live in
poverty, as his paintings did not rise significantly in monetary value
until after his death. Occasionally, however, Sisley would be
backed by patrons, and this allowed him, among other things, to make a
few brief trips to Britain.
The first of these occurred in 1874, after the first independent
Impressionist exhibition. The result of a few months spent near London
was a series of nearly twenty paintings of the Upper Thames near
Molesey, which was later described by art historian
Kenneth Clark as
"a perfect moment of Impressionism."
Until 1880, Sisley lived and worked in the country west of Paris; then
he and his family moved to a small village near Moret-sur-Loing, close
to the forest of Fontainebleau, where the painters of the Barbizon
school had worked earlier in the century. Here, as art historian Anne
Poulet has said, "the gentle landscapes with their constantly changing
atmosphere were perfectly attuned to his talents. Unlike Monet, he
never sought the drama of the rampaging ocean or the brilliantly
colored scenery of the Côte d'Azur."
In 1881, Sisley made a second brief voyage to Britain.
In 1897, Sisley and his partner visited Britain again, and were
finally married in
Cardiff Register Office on 5 August. They stayed
at Penarth, where Sisley painted at least six oils of the sea and the
cliffs. In mid-August they moved to the Osborne Hotel at Langland Bay
on the Gower Peninsula, where he produced at least eleven oil
paintings in and around
Langland Bay and Rotherslade Bay (then called
Lady's Cove). They returned to France in October. This was Sisley's
last voyage to his ancestral homeland. The National Museum Cardiff
possesses two of his oil paintings of
Penarth and Langland.
The following year Sisley applied for French citizenship, but was
refused. A second application was made and supported by a police
report, but illness intervened, and Sisley remained British till
The painter died on 29 January 1899 in
Moret-sur-Loing at the age of
59, a few months after the death of his wife.
Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle-Saint-Cloud, 1865
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
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
Seine au point du jour, 1877, Musée Malraux, Le Havre
He was inspired by the style and subject matter of previous modern
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.
The Terrace at Saint-Germain, Spring, 1875. The Walters Art Museum
Flood at Port-Marly, 1876. Musée d'Orsay
Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle-
Saint-Cloud (c. 1865)
Village Street in Marlotte (1866)
Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle-
Still Life with Heron (1867)
Seine at St. Mammes (1867–69)
View of Montmartre from the cite des Fleurs (1869)
Early Snow at
Louveciennes (c. 1871–72)
Boulevard Heloise, Argenteuil (1872)
Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne (1872)
Ferry to the Ile-de-la-Loge – Flood (1872)
Footbridge at Argenteuil (1872)
La Grande-Rue, Argenteuil (c. 1872)
Square in Argenteuil (Rue de la Chaussee) (1872)
Chemin de la Machine
Factory in the Flood, Bougival (1873)
Rue de la Princesse,
Sentier de la Mi-cote,
Among the Vines
Hampton Court (1874)
The Lesson (1874)
Molesey Weir – Morning (1874)
Hampton Court (1874)
Snow on the Road
Under the Bridge at
Hampton Court (1874)
Louveciennes (Rue de la Princesse) (1875)
The Terrace at Saint-Germain, Spring (1875)
Small Meadows in Spring (c. 1881)
Le Port de Moret-sur-Loing: Le soir (1884)
The Loing at Saint-Mammès (1885), Musée Malraux, Le Havre
Storr Rock, Lady's Cove, le soir (1897)
On the cliffs,
Langland Bay (1897)
St. Martin Canal, 1870
Early Snow at Louveciennes, c. 1871-1872
Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne 1872
Sentier de la Mi-cote, Louveciennes, 1873
Fog, Voisins, 1874
Among the Vines Louveciennes, 1874
Bridge at Hampton Court, 1874
Regatta at Hampton Court, 1874
Regatta at Molesey, 1874
Snow on the Road Louveciennes, 1874
Under the Bridge at Hampton Court, 1874
Le Pont de Moret, effet d'orage, 1887, Musée Malraux, Le Havre
Small Meadows in Spring, c. 1881
View of Saint-Mammès, (circa 1880). The Walters Art Museum.
A path at Les Sablons, 1883
Women Going to the Woods, 1886
Seaside, Langland , 1887
Church in Moret, 1889
Saint-Mammès am Morgen, 1890
^ a b [Richard Shone: Sisley. London: Phaidon Press 1999.
^ Turner 2000, pp. 400–401.
^ Denvir 2000, p. 265.
^ Poulet 1979, p. 77.
^ A Sisley painting of the south Wales coast
^ BBC Radio 4 6 November 2008, Misfits in France
^ Turner 2000, p. 401.
^ Haine, Scott. The History of France (1st ed.). Greenwood Press.
p. 112. ISBN 0-313-30328-2.
^ Bomford et al. 1990, p. 203.
^ Rosenblum 1989, p. 306.
^ "French National Pleads Guilty to International Stolen Art
Conspiracy". earthtimes.com. 10 July 2008. Retrieved 8 August
^ Alfred Sisley, page 82, François Daulte, Alfred Sisley, Cassell,
1988. ISBN 978-0-304-32222-0
Bomford, David, Jo Kirby, John Leighton, Ashok Roy, and Raymond White
(1990). Impressionism. London: National Gallery.
Daulte, F. (1959).
Alfred Sisley Catalogue raisonnee de l'oeuvre peint
Denvir, B. (2000). The Chronicle of Impressionism: An Intimate DIary
of the Lives and World of the Great Artists. London: Thames &
Hudson. OCLC 43339405
Poulet, A. L., & Murphy, A. R. (1979). Corot to Braque: French
Paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: The Museum.
Reed, Nicholas, (2008). Sisley on the Thames and the Welsh Coast.
Lilburne Press. ISBN 978-1-901167-20-7
Rosenblum, Robert (1989). Paintings in the Musée d'Orsay. New York:
Stewart, Tabori & Chang. ISBN 1-55670-099-7
Turner, J. (2000). From Monet to Cézanne: late 19th-century French
artists. Grove Art. New York: St Martin's Press.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alfred Sisley.
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Paintings by Sisley
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