Alfred Sisley 1839-1899 BACK

Alfred Sisley was born in Paris on 30 October 1839 to parents of English descent.' The success of his father, a prosperous businessman, allowed Sisley to live comfortably as a young artist without relying upon sales of his paintings for income. Sisley was sent to London at age seventeen to train for a business career, but he preferred studying the paintings of John Constable and J. M. W. Turner in museums and art galleries. Soon after his return to Paris in 1860, he entered the studio of Charles Gleyre, where he met Monet and Renoir, and was encouraged by his master to paint out of doors and to express his individual style.

Sisley first exhibited at the Salon in 1866, showing two landscapes painted near the Forest of Fontainebleau, and another painting was accepted by the Salon jury two years later. The few works that remain from the 1860s reveal Sisley's enduring artistic concerns, such as the rural landscape occasionally punctuated with figures, a road receding into a distant village, and the influence of Corot in both subject matter and style.'

The acceptance of two of his paintings by the Salon in 1870 marked the final occasion on which Sisley exhibited there. After the Franco-Prussian War destroyed his father's business and caused the older gentleman's eventual death, Sisley was forced to depend upon sales of his canvases to support his family-.' From his home in Louveciennes, where he moved in 1872, the artist traveled to nearby Argenteuil, Bougival, and Port-Marly, as evidenced by his paintings from this time. Also during the early 1870s he met Paul Durand-Ruel, who featured works by Sisley in an 1872 exhibition in his London gallery.

In 1874, as a founding member of the Societe anonyme cooperative des artistes peintures, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc., Sisley contributed six paintings to the first Impressionist exhibition, including The Ferry-of the Ile de la Loge: Flood (1872) and The Machine de Marly (1873, both in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen). That summer Sisley returned to England at the invitation of Jean-Baptiste Faure, a renowned singer and an early patron of the Impressionists. There he painted several views of Hampton Court and depicted everyday life in the nearby riverside village of East Molesey. Soon after his return to France, Sisley relocated to Marly-le-Rol, where he was again inspired to paint his immediate surroundings. One series of seven paintings captures the rising waters of the Seine as it flooded Port-Marly. At least two of the flood paintings were included in the second Impressionist exhibition of 1876.

Sisley contributed seventeen canvases, several of which again portrayed the environs of Louveciennes and Marly, to the third Impressionist exhibition the following year. In 1879 Sisley abstained from participating in the fourth Impressionist exhibition and instead, along with Renoir and Monet, submitted works to the Salon (Sisley's were refused). One year later he moved to Moret-sur-Loing, which remained his home until his death two decades later.

In 1883 the Durand-Ruel gallery held Sisley's first one-person exhibition. By the middle of the decade, however, both critics and colleagues were growing dissatisfied with Sisley's paintings.' He continued to exhibit with the Impressionists, but like a number of the original members of the group, he did not participate in their final exhibition of 1886. Later in the decade, hoping to improve his financial situation as well as his reputation, Sisley began working in pastel, a medium popular with the public. Around this time he also focused on creating series of specific scenes with slight variations in time of day, light, weather, and season.

Toward the end of the 1880s Sisley began experiencing health problems. He traveled to Paris less often and produced fewer paintings. His September Morning (c. 1887, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Agen) was purchased by the French government in 1888, and later that year a one person exhibition of his works was organized at the Galerie Georges Petit. In 1891 he exhibited with Les XX in Brussels, but a larger one-person exhibition organized by Galerie Georges Petit in February 1897 ended in both commercial and critical failure. Later that summer he traveled to England one last time. The following year he ceased painting and was diagnosed with throat cancer. Sisley died on 2 9 January 1899, never having attained the status, reputation, or financial success of his colleagues.

Image List

The Seine at Bougival, 1872

The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1872

The Boulevard Heloise, Argenteuil, 1872

La Grande Rue, Argenteuil, 1872

Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil, 1872

The Terrace at St Germain, Spring, 1875

The Slopes of Bougival, 1875

The Forge at Marly-le-Roi, 1875

The Bark During the Flood- Port Marly, 1876

The Flood at Port Marly, 1876

Snow at Louveciennes, 1878

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