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  • Alfred Sisley
    Oct 30, 1839 – Jan 29, 1899
  • Snow at Louveciennes 1878 - Alfred Sisley was an English Impressionist landscape painter who was born, and spent most of his life, in France. Sisley is generally recognized as the most consistent of the Impressionists in his dedication to painting landscape en plein air (i.e., outdoors). He never deviated into figure painting and, unlike Renoir and Pissarro, never found that Impressionism did not fulfill his artistic needs.
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Snow at Louveciennes 1878
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  • Snow at Louveciennes 1878

  • Alfred Sisley
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  • 1878
    Oil on canvas
    Musée d'Orsay, France.

    The countryside in winter particularly attracted Sisley who excelled in capturing the sadness and desolation of nature. His taciturn and solitary temperament was more suited to mystery and silence than to the brilliance of the sun-drenched Mediterranean landscapes that artists like Renoir were so fond of.
    Like Monet, Sisley followed Courbet's example in painting snow scenes. This subject appealed to the Impressionists because it allowed them to study the variations in the light, and to use different ranges of shades. Through small touches of colour placed on the canvas, the land appears iridescent with bluish reflections rather than uniformly white.

    The winters spent in Louveciennes, in Marly-le-Roi or in Veneux-Nadon inspired Sisley to paint numerous snow scenes, such as this one. Snow at Louveciennes also illustrates the painter's experiments with perspective: a snow-covered road disappears into the background, inhabited only by one small, isolated character. The artist's sensitivity, expressed in these refined, delicate landscapes, where colours form discreet harmonies, may be explained by his British origins. Besides, Sisley had been able to admire the works of Bonington, Constable and Turner during the four years he spent in England from 1857 to 1861, and on later visits. We must also remember that the technique of watercolour, much in favour in Britain, had helped to introduce a certain freedom into painting.

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Other paintings by Alfred Sisley:

Chemin de la Machine, Louveciennes
Chemin de la Machine, Louveciennes
The Church at Moret in Morning Sun
The Church at Moret in Morning Sun
View of the Canal St. Martin
View of the Canal St. Martin
A Cardiff Shipping Lane
A Cardiff Shipping Lane
Alfred SisleyBorn October 30, 1839, in Paris, France. The consummate landscape painter, Alfred Sisley was born to English parents and made his first trip to London in 1857. It was there that he was inspired by the work of such English landscape painters as Turner, Constable, and Bonnington. He joined other Impressionist artists such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir in flouting the strict methods of the École des Beaux-Arts in favor of a more naturalistic and realistic portrayal of his subjects.

In 1868, Alfred Sisley's landscape, Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle Saint-Cloud (Southampton), was shown at the prestigious Salon art exhibition. The painting drew upon the soft tonality of Camille Corot and the dramatic massing of Courbet, both of whom were a strong influence on the artist. Sisley displayed six landscapes at the first Impressionist exhibition, and all were largely criticized. Like many of his contemporaries, Alfred Sisley was condemned for his loose and apparently unfinished execution in such works as Autumn: Banks of the Seine near Bougival (1873; Montreal).

Of all of the Impressionist artists of the period, Alfred Sisley was the purest landscape painter. He painted nearly 900 oil paintings and fewer than a dozen were still lifes and only one or two were genre scenes. The remainder were landscapes spanning from the forest of Fontainebleau and Louveciennes, London to Moret and Wales. He eschewed cityscapes, industrialization and human figures for the serenity of a pastoral setting.

Under the patronage of the French baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure, Alfred Sisley was able to return to England in 1874. While there, he painted a series of canvases at Hampton Court, including Molesey Weir, Hampton Court (1874; Edinburgh), which are remarkably fresh and spontaneous. The painting appears relaxed and informal, and the figures of the naked bathers are executed with great economy of means.

Alfred Sisley exhibited at the second and third Impressionist exhibitions, but it wasn’t until he received a mention in Georges Rivière's L'Impressioniste that the painter received any critical acclaim. Rivière wrote of Sisley's charming talent, his taste, subtlety, and tranquility. Alfred Sisley portrayed a timeless view of nature in which man, although present, is never the controlling force. He died on January 29, 1899 of throat cancer.