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Alfred Sisley

Born 1839. Died 1899.
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Alfred Sisley Biography

Alfred Sisley was born 30 October, 1839 in Paris, France, to an affluent English family; Sisley’s father, William, owned a silk exportation business and his mother, Felicia Sell, was a music connoisseur. Sisley was one of four children.

In 1857, when Sisley was age 18, his father sent him to London to study business. Sisley, however, didn’t take well to the profession; instead of attending classes, he’d often opt to visit the city’s museums. After four years, Sisley returned to Paris and, in 1862, began a course of study at the École des Beaux-Arts under the tutelage of Swiss artist Charles Gleyre. Sisley’s fellow classmates included Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille and Claude Monet; together, the group would travel to the French countryside to paint landscapes en plein air, intent on capturing the transient effect of sunlight with more realism than had previously been practiced. The style, which came to be known as Impressionism, went against the established artistic standards of the period, and artworks completed by members of the group and their followers were usually rejected from the Salon. In 1868, a group of Sisley’s paintings were selected for exhibition at the annual Paris art show, but the occasion failed to bring critical success.

The onset of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 led to the failure of William Sisley’s silk business. From that point forward, Alfred, who’d long received a weekly allowance from his father, was forced to rely on sales of his artwork for income. He spent the rest of his life in relative poverty, with his oeuvre only achieving its current market value after his death.

For the final three decades of his life, Sisley remained focused on refining and perfecting his Impressionist-style landscapes. In 1880, Sisley moved with his wife, Eugénie Lesouezec, and their two children to Veneux-Nadon near Moret-sur-Loing. There, he’d continue to live for the rest of his life, moving several times between the two villages. The local scenery offered a constant source of inspiration to the artist, who tried to capture the relationship between land, water and sky as well as the changing effects of light on his surroundings. Sisley passed away on 29 January 1899 in Moret-sur-Loing as a result of throat cancer; he was age 59.

Today, the artist’s works can be found in the collections of numerous museums including the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery in London and the Neue Pinakothek in Munich. In March 2017, Sisley’s painting Effet de neige à Louveciennes (1874) achieved $9,064,733 at Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale in London, setting the record price paid for a work by the artist.

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