Although Sisley was the quintessential Impressionist painter his compositional motifs often derived from classical arrangements which he admired. A particular favourite was Meindert Hobbema's Avenue at Middelharnis (1689, National Gallery, London) which shares a lithe avenue of poplars as its central device with the present work. The extraordinary vitality of Sisley's trees is amplified by the gloriously vernal atmosphere evoked by the verdant palette employed. The beautifully painted cobalt blue sky embodies the importance that the artist attached to this part of the landscape, as explained in a letter to his friend, the art critic Adolphe Tavernier: 'The sky is not simply a background; its planes give depth (for the sky has planes, as well as solid ground), and the shapes of clouds give movement to a picture. What is more beautiful indeed than the summer sky, with its wispy clouds idly floating across the blue? What movement and grace! Don't you agree? They are like waves on the sea; one is uplifted and carried away' (quoted in Sisley (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., 1966).
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