Celebrating the 182nd anniversary of Alfred Sisley’s birth
Born to affluent British parents in Paris in 1839 Alfred Sisley embraced totally the artistic influence of the Impressionist movement and dedicated most of his art to landscape painting. He lived most of his life in France although he kept his British citizenship and spent some periods in England. Because of his very strong connections with the Impressionist school and his upbringing, he is often considered a French artist. The soft tones of his landscapes are his signature trait and he coherently adopted the Impressionist principle of painting en plein air.
In 1871, following the Franco-Prussian War, Sisley’s father ran into a series of bad deals and the entire family suffered financial disruption. From that moment Sisley’s life changed: no longer supported by his father’s finances, he would have to support himself only with the proceeds of his works, naturally trying to get as much as possible. During the bloody period of the Paris Commune he retired with his family to Voisins-Louveciennes, often going to the wood of Marly-le-Roi in the company of his neighbor and friend Auguste Renoir.
By is a village a few miles north-west of Moret, where Sisley lived from 1880 onward. The village on the opposite bank is Champagne. A ferry across the river was in operation until 1864 and again between 1870 and 1872. Three washerwomen can be seen in this work, The Path to the Old Ferry. This was a common sight on this stretch of the river as can be seen in another picture painted close by, titled ‘Washerwomen near Champagne’. This painting is exhibited at the National Gallery in London.
This painting looks south from the clifftop at Penarth, near Cardiff. Sisley was the only Impressionist to visit Wales. While there in 1897 he married his long-term partner Eugénie Lescouezec. The couple stayed first in Penarth and then on the Gower peninsula. Sisley painted a number of views in both locations. Still faithful to the impressionist idea of painting the effect of a specific moment, the view is bathed in an atmospheric summer evening light. On the horizon the two islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm merge together in the dusk and a white dot indicates the distant beam of the lighthouse.
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