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Alfred Sisley 1839-1899

Photograph of a painting by the French Impressionist, Alfred Sisley.

 

Environs de Louveciennes

Oil on canvas 15 x 22 inches (38 x 55cm)
Signed by the artist b.r. and dated ’73


SOLD

Provenance: Henri de Saint-Albin, Paris, 1920’s;

Jacques de Saint-Albin;

Benoit de Saint-Albin;

Private Collection;

Richard Nathanson, London;

Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dublin;

Private collection, Dublin
Exhibited:
Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, February 1897, no. 144;
Kunsthaus, Zurich, August 1990, no. 178;
'Alfred Sisley - Poet of Impression',
Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, Italy, Feb – May 2002;
Museo Thyssen-Bornem, Madrid, Spain, June – Sept 2002;
Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon, France, Oct – Jan 2003
;
'Turner and the Impresionists',
Museo di Santa Giulia,
Brescia, Italy, Oct 2006 - March 2007
Literature: François Daulte
, Catalogue Raisonné de l’Oeuvre Peint, Lausanne, 1959, number 59, illustrated

Note:

This painting has been described as The Couple; Le Couple; Near Louveciennes and similar descriptions. We have reverted to the title used by Daulte’s in his Catalogue Raisonné. dmp-April 2007

 

'Environs de Louveciennes' is one of Sisley’s most atmospheric and moving landscapes, painted while he was living at Voisins-Louveciennes. It features a man and a woman returning home through the fading light on a cold winter's afternoon. The importance given to the couple appears to be unique in Sisley’s oeuvre

It is one of four landscapes painted in the winter of 1873 where the snow does not cover the ground. The earth is hard and unyielding and the trees have shred their leaves. The couple appear isolated and vulnerable, their quiet and touching unity set against the blustery chill of late afternoon. The woman gathers a grey shawl around her to keep out the cold. Our attention is drawn to the red of her hat, the soft pink-and-mauve portico of a large house and, behind it, a last joyous, radiant burst of golden sunlight as the day nears its end. As they walk towards the setting sun the two figures cast shadows along the winding track. Plumes of smoke from the dying embers of a fire hang in the air and a bluish haze rises from the earth. Hoar frost glistens on the grass in the foreground and the sombre, bare-branched trees are silhouetted against a sky delicately streaked with golden ochres, pinks, blues and greys. The debt to Constable is evident in the vibrant, richly coloured sky, the sense of movement, distance and scale. This is one of Sisley’s most emotional and symbolic paintings, both as an evocation of winter and as a metaphor for the journey through life.

                                                                  Frances Fowles
Alfred Sisley - Poet of Impressionism
                                                                    

Photograph of a painting by the French Impressionist, Alfred Sisley.

Gelée Blanche - Été de la Saint Martin

Oil on canvas 18¼ x 22 inches (46 x 55cm)
Signed by the artist b.r and dated ’74

SOLD

Provenance: The artist to Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1875;

sold to Abbé Gauguin, Paris, 16 June, 1893;

Gauguin sale, Hotel Drouot, Paris, 6 May 1901, lot 19,

sold to Georges Petit, FF9200;

Galerie Georges Petit, Paris;

Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris,

Dr. Alberto Lernoux, Buenos Aires;

Private collection, Switzerland;

Milmo-Penny Fine Art, Dublin;

Private collection, Dublin
Exhibited:
Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, February 1897, no. 144;
Kunsthaus, Zurich, August 1990, no. 178;
'Alfred Sisley - Poet of Impression',
Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, Italy, Feb – May 2002;
Museo Thyssen-Bornem, Madrid, Spain, June – Sept 2002;
Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon, France, Oct – Jan 2003;
'Impressionists in the Snow',
Palazzina della Promotrice, Turin, Italy, Nov 04 - April 05
Literature:
François Daulte, Catalogue Raisonné de l’Oeuvre Peint, Lausanne, 1959, number 143, illustrated

 
Note:Possibly one of the 12 paintings by Sisley sent by Durand-Ruel for exhibition at the Dudley Gallery, London in 1884 (see Mary Ann Stevens, 1992, pp. 42, 52). The Durand-Ruel label on the stretchers uses the short title, Gelée Blanche although another work, Le Givre ou Gelée Blanche was also in his possession at the time.
 

Besides the colouring and leafless tree, the title of this painting, hoar frost - an Indian summer, firmly establishes it as a work from the autumn of 1874. It is one of the first paintings Sisley produced on his return from England in the first weeks of October. The return to familiar surroundings coupled with a change of season may have inspired Sisley to produce a canvas of such vitality. He displays his delight in the encounter of such wonderful autumn colours and captures with great delicacy the soft early morning light as it reflects off the white frost. He conveys a sense of the fresh, crisp bouquet of the morning air and the rustle of the breeze as it chills the dew.

The painting shows many of the elements which won Sisley so many admirers. The sky is beautifully lit and skilfully reflected in the white frost. Sisley painted many fine snow scenes which have become popular amongst collectors. However, the depiction of frost is far more challenging for an artist. It requires a greater degree of observation and the rare ability to paint the atmosphere.

Another element of Sisley’s greatness is shown in the planning of the composition. The orientation and layout of a view is as important in painting as the ability to utilise pigment and brush. The track winding out of the foreground edge offers an immediate invitation to enter the scene. The viewer is then enticed into the middle distance by the two figures, characteristically tall and matchstick-like. The eye is then led on by the line of walls, softly illuminated in the glow of the rising sun. Out of view, the track continues on through the receding shrubbery which meets the sky and carries the eye on to infinity.

The figures lend scale to the buildings which provide the composition with strength and solidity and illuminate the painting as their walls absorb the morning light. The strong colouring used for the stark leafless tree in the foreground helps to diffuse the light in the main composition. The tree also acts as a balance for the more distant and higher elements of the scene. Yet another function of this tree is to entice the eye into the secondary composition to the right. It is interesting to compare this aspect of the composition to Camille Pissarro’s 1873 version of Gelée Blanche in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

The three piles of stakes in the field to the right are ready for driving into the ground, in the same way as those to the left of the track. These stakes are used to carry the wires which support the vines as they mature and bear their fruit. They closely resemble the plantation portrayed in The Fields, Leeds City Art Gallery, also painted in 1874.

In his 1959 catalogue raisonné, François Daulte identifies the location of our painting which he describes as a view of the houses of Voisins from the far end of the village. The painting closely resembles another work of the same year, Coin du Village de Voisins, a small hamlet adjacent to Louveciennes. Sisley lived with his family in Louveciennes from 1871 to the early months of 1875. His house was situated on the rue de la Princesse which runs on to the rue de Voisins.

Dominic Milmo-Penny

March 2001

Daulte identifies this picture as a view of the houses of Voisins from the far end of the village. From 1872 to early 1875 Sisley was living at Voisins-Louveciennes where he rented a two-storey house at 2 rue de la Princesse. Louveciennes itself is about twenty kilometres west of Paris and about ten kilometres north of Versailles. The small hamlet of Voisins was linked to Louveciennes but remained autonomous, its compact centre distinguished by the imposing feature of the Château de Voisins and giving way to winding roads that led down to the banks of the river Seine.

Louveciennes was (and still is) part of the Parish of Saint-Martin but the subtitle “L’Eté de la Saint Martin” refers to the date rather than the location. “Saint Martin’s summer” (the equivalent of the English “Indian summer”) is the period between Toussaint (1 November) and St. Martin’s feast day on 11 November, so named because it is often characterised by mild sunny weather. This is also the time of the year when the first frost often appears.

As a “poet of the seasons” Sisley painted the landscape around Louveciennes in all weathers and conditions. On one occasion he painted the same view in summer and winter, Garden Path in Louveciennes of 1873 and Snow at Louveciennes – Chemin de l’Étarché; but more often he explored different areas of the countryside, building up a store of different scenes which together create a visual map of the area. He was particularly fond of recording the bright light and strong shadows of an autumn or winter day when the ground was partially covered in a thin layer of frost. In this picture, with bold touches of white, red purple and pale blue, he captures the effect of hoarfrost on a crisp, clear day.

As with other works of this period, the composition is carefully organised, with the sweeping curve of the furrowed path leading the eye into the painting. In the middle distance a couple with their backs turned to us gaze further down the path towards the distant Place de l’Église. Sisley adopts a low viewpoint so that the house, its façade bathed in sunlight, and the distant, grey church appear remote and strangely elongated in the still, silent atmosphere of the painting. Sisley creates a dense and complex arrangement of overlapping planes and contrasting textures. The rich red-brown earth is animated with flecks of purple while the blue-white frost gathers in the furrows of the greenish-yellow path.

Frances Fowles
Alfred Sisley – Poet of Impressionism

 
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