Alfred Sisley

Le Loing au dessous du Pont de Moret

Oil on canvas: 29(h) x 36.5(w) in /

73.7(h) x 92.7(w) cm

Signed and dated lower right: Sisley.92; titled in pencil on the stretcher

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CL 3524

 

ALFRED SISLEY

1839 – 1899 Moret

 

Le Loing au dessous du Pont de Moret

 

Signed and dated lower right: Sisley.92;

titled in pencil on the stretcher

Oil on canvas: 29 x 36 ½ in / 73.7 x 92.7 cm

Frame size: 41 x 48 ¼ in / 104.1 x 122.6 cm

 

To be included in the new edition of the Catalogue Raisonné of Alfred Sisley by François Daulte being prepared by Galerie Brame & Lorenceau for the Comité Alfred Sisley

 

Provenance:

Monsieur Gez, Paris

Galerie André Weil, Paris

Alex Reid & Lefevre (The Lefevre Gallery), London

Private collection;

Sotheby’s London, 29th November 1988, lot 47;

Richard Green, London, 1988;

Mr William Priest Jnr, New York, 1989;

his sale, Christie’s New York, 2nd November 1993, lot 13;

private collection, USA

 

Exhibited:

London, The Lefevre Gallery, XIX and XX Century French Paintings, 1968, no.25, illus. in colour

London, Richard Green, 19th and 20th Century European Paintings, 1989, no.13, illus.  

London, Royal Academy of Arts / Paris, Musée d’Orsay / Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, Alfred Sisley, 1992-93, pp.183; 224-5, no.65, illus. in colour

 

Literature:

Vivienne Couldrey, Alfred Sisley: The English Impressionist, Exeter 1992, p.72, illus. in colour Nicholas Wadley, ‘La Nature apprivoisée’, Connaissance des Arts Sisley, Paris 1992, no.50, illus. in colour p.53

 

 

Alfred Sisley, of all the original Impressionist group, remained the most committed to landscape painting and to the Impressionists’ original aim of capturing the transient effects of nature. In September 1882 he moved to Moret-sur-Loing, about two hours from Paris on the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau and near the junction of the Seine and the Loing. He settled definitively at Moret in November 1889 and lived there until his death a decade later. Sisley commented in a letter to the critic Adolphe Tavernier: ‘It is at Moret – in this thickly wooded countryside with its tall poplars, the waters of the river Loing here, so beautiful, so translucent, so changeable; at Moret my art has undoubtedly developed most….I will never really leave this little place that is so picturesque’[1].

 

Moret was fortified in the Middle Ages because of its strategic importance on the border of the Ile de France and Burgundy. Richard Shone describes its appeal in the nineteenth century: ‘The fame of Moret rested….on the view it presented from across the Loing. Old flour and tanning mills clustered along the bridge; the river, scattered with tiny islands, seemed more like a moat protecting the houses and terraced gardens that, on either side of the sturdy Porte de Bourgogne, in turn defended the pinnacled tower of the church. Add to this the tree-lined walks along the river, the continuous sound of water from the weir and the great wheels of the mills, the houseboats and fishermen, and there was, as every guidebook explained….a sight “worthy of the brush” ’[2].

 

During his years in Moret, Sisley explored the town from every angle and in every season and weather, creating interrelated works that have parallels with the ‘series’ paintings of his close friend Claude Monet. The bridge at Moret was a favourite motif. In the present work Sisley stands on the left bank of the Loing looking upstream on a beautiful summer afternoon. The town of Moret, with its imposing Porte de Bourgogne, is out of sight to the right. The handsome, arched medieval bridge leads leftwards towards the road to Saint-Mammès, another small town that provided subjects for paintings in these years.

 

Dominating the right of the picture, shadowed in lilac blue, is the Provencher watermill, which stood on the centre of the bridge, positioned to catch the most powerful current[3]. Moret’s mills had developed from the twelfth century, exploiting the power of the Loing to grind corn, tan hides and full cloth. The Moulin Provencher, named after the Provencher family who owned it in the early nineteenth century, was originally a fulling mill, used in the preparation of supple leather for gloves. After the French Revolution it was used to grind corn.

 

Sisley is fascinated by the complexity of the building, with its wooden substructure; he made several views of the wooden bridge behind the mill, including The Provencher watermill at Moret, 1883 (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam)[4]. The vertical thrust of the Provencher mill and the poplars on the opposite bank hold in tension the strong horizontal emphasis of the bridge and the houses on the riverside. Their warm terracotta-tiled roofs, catching the afternoon sun, find an echo in the sunlit pink earth of the right middleground bank, which contrasts so vividly with the fresh, yellow-green grass in the foreground.

 

By 1892, when this painting was made, Sisley had perfected the ‘Harmony, delicacy, refinement, subtlety’[5] for which contemporary and later critics applauded him. In Le Loing au dessous du Pont de Moret he employs wonderfully varied brushwork, from short staccato strokes for the sparkling foreground grass, to nervous, circular strokes for the quivering poplars and dense handling for the geometric complexity of the mill. The wispy clouds are traced in dry, dragged strokes of white over a pulsating pale blue. The river and its reflections are conjured from curlicues, streaks and eddies of thinner paint, filling the foreground with radiance and giving the sense of the Loing – lifeblood of Moret – rushing past us out of the picture.

 

 


ALFRED SISLEY

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 and later to Moret-sur-Loing near Fontainebleau, where he was based until his death in 1899.

 

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] Quoted in Richard Shone, Sisley, New York 1992, p.123.

[2] Shone, op. cit., p.159.

[3] Sadly, it was destroyed by the retreating Germans in August 1944 and today only the foundations and the waterwheel remain.

[4] Royal Academy etc., Alfred Sisley, op. cit., pp.234-5, illus. in colour.

[5] Sylvie Patin in RA etc. Alfred Sisley, ibid., p.185.

ImpressionistAlfred Sisley