Alfred Sisley

Le petit Bougival

Oil on canvas: 10.9(h) x 16(w) in /

27.6(h) x 40.6(w) cm

Signed lower right: Sisley

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BS 133



Paris 1839 – 1899 Moret sur Loing


Le petit Bougival


Signed lower right: Sisley

Oil on canvas: 10 ⅞ x 16 in / 27.6 x 40.6 cm

Frame size: 17 ½ x 22 ½ in / 44.4 x 57.2 cm


Painted in 1874



Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830-1914), Paris;

by inheritance to Mme Faure;

Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, no.11957 (acquired on 1st February 1919)

Fernand Bouisson (1874-1959), Paris

Private collection, Switzerland



Paris, Galeries Georges Petit, Alfred Sisley, 14th May-7th June 1917, no.14



G Poulain, ‘De Courbet à Chagall chez M. et Mme Bouisson’, La Renaissance, Paris, December 1930, p.345, illus.

François Daulte, Alfred Sisley, catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, Lausanne 1959, no.135, illus.


This painting will be included in the new edition of the Catalogue Raisonné of Alfred Sisley by François Daulte, being prepared by the Comité Sisley at Galerie Brame & Lorenceau



Le petit Bougival was made in 1874, the year that what would become known as the first Impressionist exhibition was held at the photographer Nadar’s studio from 15th April to 15th May. It exemplifies the aims of the fledgling movement: to express in paint what the eye actually sees, without artistic preconceptions, and what the heart feels. Alfred Sisley takes a modest, undramatic view on the Seine bathed in gentle sunlight and with rapid, shimmering brushwork conjures up the ripples of the water, the rustling of the spring leaves, the man-made structures and the atmosphere surrounding them, all with a harmonious palette that marries soft, warm pinks and yellows with contrasting, cool greens and blue-greens. Modest in size (10 x 16 in), the painting was made en plein air to capture with the greatest immediacy the changing effects of nature.


Sisley lived in Voisins, a hamlet attached to Louveciennes a mile or two from Bougival, from late 1872. Monet had been living at nearby Argenteuil from the previous year. About ten miles from Paris and easily reached by train from Gare Saint-Lazare, this area was much cheaper than the capital for the young artists, but put them within easy reach of its exhibitions and art world. The Seine, flanked by fields and low hills, provided myriad subjects around the settlements along the river. Sisley was not interested in drama or the overtly picturesque, but in the faithful recording of the everyday landscape of northern France. Particularly pleasing in this painting is the light filtering through the trees to the left, the hazy blue distance and the pink blush in the sky. Richard Shone writes that this period at Voisins was ‘the making of [Sisley] as a painter’[1]. He often painted side by side with Monet, but his closest friendship was with Auguste Renoir. In works such as Le petit Bougival; Factory in the flood, 1873 (Ordrupgaard Collection, Copenhagen)[2] and Rue de la Princesse, Louveciennes, 1873 (private collection)[3], Sisley employs simple but arresting compositions, full of the discovery of a new way of painting. Shone comments: ‘The sudden abundance of Sisley’s work in Louveciennes, its high quality, freshness and confident innovations all coincided with his complete identification with the emerging Impressionist movement’[4].


This painting was owned by the celebrated baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830-1914), one of Sisley’s earliest and most enthusiastic patrons. Faure, who created the role of the Marquis of Posa in Verdi’s Don Carlos (1867), owned sixty-seven paintings by Manet, including Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, and sixty-three by Monet, including Le pont d’Argenteuil, as well as works by Degas and Pissarro. He got to know the Impressionists through his friendship with Paul Durand-Ruel. Throughout the 1870s the impecunious Monet and Sisley would beat a path to Faure’s door. Monet recalled: ‘At that time we were often mistaken for each other, and Sisley and I were amongst Faure’s most persistent visitors and he paid us 100 francs for a painting’[5]. Sisley, who came from English stock, spent several months in Hampton Court in 1874, painting at Faure’s expense while Faure fulfilled singing engagements in London. Eventually the baritone owned nearly sixty paintings from all periods of Sisley’s career, some of which, including Le petit Bougival, passed to his widow. In the early twentieth century the painting was owned by the politician Fernand Bouisson (1874-1959), Président de la Chambre des Députés 1927-36 and briefly Président du Conseil in 1935.






Paris 1839 – 1899 Moret sur Loing



Alfred Sisley was born in Paris in 1839 into a prosperous English merchant family. He went to London at the age of eighteen to study commerce with a view to entering the family business, but soon decided to devote himself entirely to painting. Upon his return to Paris in 1863, assured of family support, Sisley entered the studio of Marc Gleyre where he met and became lifelong friends with Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Sisley’s first recorded landscape dates from 1865, yet his financially comfortable circumstances may account for the fact that there are only eighteen known paintings by him pre-dating 1871.


Sisley’s lifestyle changed abruptly in 1870, the year of the Franco-Prussian War, with the death of his father and the financial ruination of his family. He was then compelled to turn to painting as a means of supporting himself. From this time on his correspondence to friends and patrons is often dominated by pleas for financial aid.


Sisley was the only Impressionist to paint landscapes almost exclusively; his chief interest was in trying to represent the mood and atmosphere of nature. Water always played an important part in his work, a subject matter which gives his paintings a joyous vibrancy and purity of tone. He lived near rivers most of his life, at Bougival, Louveciennes and Marly-le-Roi. In 1880 Sisley moved from Sèvres in the Ile de France to Veneux-Nadon at the junction of the Seine and Loing, settling in nearby Moret-sur-Loing in 1889, where he lived until his death a decade later.


Sisley exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in 1863, the Salon in 1866, and contributed to four major Impressionist exhibitions, from the first in 1874 until 1886. Despite a successful one-man show staged by his dealer Durand-Ruel in 1883, Sisley’s paintings found comparatively few buyers during his lifetime beyond a circle of loyal collectors. In 1897, at a large retrospective exhibition at the Galeries Georges Petit, not one painting was sold. Since 1899 Sisley’s subtle and delicate landscapes have entered major private and museum collections throughout the world and he has taken his place at the heart of the Impressionist movement.





[1] Sisley, London 1992, repr. 2004, p.54.

[2] Shone, op. cit., p.61, illus. in colour.

[3] Shone, ibid., p.57, illus. in colour.

[4] Ibid., p.62.

[5] Quoted in ibid., p.67.

ImpressionistAlfred Sisley