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ARTIST

ALFRED SISLEY

Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) was born into a prosperous English merchant family, living in Paris. At the age of eighteen Sisley travelled to London to study commerce with a view to entering the family business, but after four years he abandoned this and decided to devote himself entirely to painting. Upon his return to Paris in 1862, assured of family support, Sisley enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts and studied in 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 comfortable lifestyle changed abruptly in 1970, the year of the Franco-Prussian War, his father passed away and as a result the family faced financial ruination. From this time on painting would therefore be Sisley's only source of income and much of his correspondence to friends and patrons throughout his remaining years became dominated by pleas for financial aid.

Sisley was the only Impressionist to paint landscapes almost exclusively. Sisley constantly strove to capture the mood and atmosphere of nature, through the fleeting effects of weather, temperature and light. During the first fifteen years of his career as a painter, Sisley lived and worked in a succession of towns west of Paris in the lush valley of the Seine, including Bougival, Louveciennes, Marly-le-Roi, and Sèvres. In January 1880, a time of dire financial straits for many of the Impressionists, Sisley left the Paris suburbs for the more rural region near the confluence of the Seine and Loing, on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau, about 75 kilometres southeast of Paris. He settled initially at Veneux-Nadon on the left bank of the Loing, in a house just a few minutes' walk from the railway station. 


In the fall of 1882, he moved about three miles southeast, to the picturesque, medieval town of Moret-sur-Loing, where he would remain 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.

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“Though the artist must remain master of his craft, the surface, at times raised to the highest pitch of loveliness, should transmit to the beholder the sensation which possessed the artist.” – Alfred Sisley

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