Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) Part I

Alfred Sisley

Alfred Sisley

Alfred Sisley (30 October 1839 – 29 January 1899) 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, he was sent to London to study for a career in business, but abandoned it after four years and returned to Paris. Beginning in 1862 Sisley studied at the atelier of Swiss artist Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre, where he became familiarized with Frederic 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.




Therefore, 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 Eugenie Lesouezec (also known as Marie Lescouezec), a Breton living in Paris, with whom he had two children. Sisley’s financial security vanished in 1870 when his father’s business failed, and his 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.

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 Cote d’Azur.”

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, as have Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.

To be continued in part II





Share this gallery with your friends: