Alfred Sisley

Alfred Sisley

Alfred Sisley (October 30, 1839 – January 29, 1899) was an English Impressionist landscape painter who was born and spent most of his life in France. Sisley is recognized as perhaps the most consistent of the Impressionists, never deviating into figure painting or finding that the movement did not fulfill his artistic needs.

Life and work

Sisley was born in Paris to affluent English parents; William Sisley was in the silk business, and his mother Felicia Sell was a cultivated music connoisseur. 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. Beginning in 1862 he studied at 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" (in the open air) in order to realistically capture the transient effects of sunlight. This approach, innovative at the time, resulted in paintings more colorful 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. Unlike some of his fellow students who suffered financial hardships, Sisley received an allowance from his father—until 1870, after which time he became increasingly poor. Sisley's student works are lost. His earliest known work, "Lane near a Small Town" is believed to have been painted around 1864. His first landscape paintings are sombre, coloured with dark browns, greens, and pale blues. They were often executed at Marly and Saint-Cloud.

In 1866, he began a relationship with Eugénie Lesouezec (also known as Marie Lescouezec), a Breton living in Paris, with whom he had two children. [Turner, 2000, pp. 400-401.] His financial security vanished in 1870 when his father's business failed, and Sisley's sole means of support became the sale of his works. For the remainder of his life he would live in poverty; his paintings rose significantly in monetary value only after his death. [Denvir, 2000, p. 265.] In 1880 Sisley 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." [Poulet, 1979, p. 77.]

Apart from the period spent in London between 1857 and 1861—and brief trips to England in 1874, 1881, and 1897—Sisley lived his entire life in France. Little is known about his relationship with the paintings of J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, which he may possibly have seen in London, although these artists have been suggested as an influence on his development as an Impressionist painter, [Turner, 2000, p. 401.] as have Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.

Among the Impressionists Sisley has been overshadowed by Monet, although his work most resembles that of Camille Pissarro. Described by art historian Robert Rosenblum as having "almost a generic character, an impersonal textbook idea of a perfect Impressionist painting", [Rosenblum, 1989, p.306.] his work strongly invokes atmosphere and his skies are always very impressive. His concentration on landscape subjects was the most consistent of any of the Impressionists.

In 1897 Sisley and his partner visited Wales and were finally married in Cardiff Register Office on 5 August. [ [] ] The following year he applied for French citizenship but was refused, remaining English till his death. Sisley died in Moret-sur-Loing at the age of 59, just a few months after the death of his wife.


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 Marseille (recovered a few days later in the city's sewers), once in 1998 (in which the museum's curator was convicted of the theft and jailed for five years along with two accomplices) and in August 2007. On June 4, 2008, the French National Police recovered it and three other stolen paintings from inside a van in Marseilles, France.cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = Art Forum | coauthors = | title = French National Pleads Guilty to International Stolen Art Conspiracy | work = | publisher = | date = 2008-07-10 | url =,463736.shtml | format = Web | doi = | accessdate = 2007-08-08 ]

elected works

* "" (c. 1864)
* "" (c. 1865)
* "Village Street in Marlotte" (1866)
* "Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle-Saint-Cloud" (1867)
* "Still Life with Heron" (1867)
* "The Seine at St. Mammes" (1867-1869)
* "View of Montmartre from the cite des Fleurs" (1869)
* ")
* "Boulevard Heloise, Argenteuil" (1872)
* "" (1872)
* "Ferry to the Ile-de-la-Loge - Flood" (1872)
* "" (1872)
* "La Grande-Rue, Argenteuil" (c. 1872)
* "Square in Argenteuil (Rue de la Chaussee)" (1872)
* "" (1873)
* "Factory in the Flood, Bougival" (1873)
* "Rue de la Princesse, Louveciennes" (1873)
* "" (1873)
* "" (1874)
* "Bridge at Hampton Court" (1874)
* "The Lesson" (1874)
* "Molesey Weir - Morning" (1874)
* "Regatta at Hampton Court" (1874)
* "Regattas at Molessey" (1874)
* "" (1874)
* "" (1874)
* "Street in Louveciennes (Rue de la Princesse)" (1875)
* "" (c. 1881)



*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. ISBN 0-87846-134-5
*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. ISBN 0-312-22971-2

External links

* [ "The Impressionists" at Biography] (from
* [ Paintings by Sisley]
* [ Sisley images and biography at CGFA]

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