Lot 178
  • 178

Alfred Sisley

550,000 - 750,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Alfred Sisley
  • Le lavoir de Billancourt
  • Signed Sisley. (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas

  • 19 7/8 by 25 7/8 in.
  • 50.3 by 65.6 cm


Henri Poidatz, Paris (and sold: Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, April 27, 1900, lot 79)
Sale: Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, March 4-5, 1921, lot 113
Comte de Lanscay, Paris (and sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 6, 1922, lot 16)
Dr. Arthur Charpentier, Paris
Acquired by the family of the present owner circa 1950
Thence by descent


Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Alfred Sisley, 1917, no. 83
Paris, Durand-Ruel, Tableaux de Sisley, 1930, no. 23
Paris, Galerie d'Art Braun, Sisley, 1933, no. 13
Berne, Kunstmuseum, Alfred Sisley, 1958, no. 38
Paris, Musée du Petit-Palais, De Gericault à Matisse, Chefs-d'Oeuvre des Collections Suisse, 1959, no. 126
Schaffhausen, Museum Zu Allerheiligen, Die Welt des Impressionnismus, 1963, no. 125
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Past Rediscovered: French Painting 1800-1900, 1969


Maximilien Gauthier, "Hommage à Sisley", in L'Art vivant, 1933, no. 170, illustrated p. 116
François Daulte, Alfred Sisley, catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1959, no. 315, illustrated
Mary Anne Stevens, ed., Alfred Sisley, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, p. 154


Canvas is not lined. Minor frame rubbing to the extreme top and left edges. Under UV light: a layer of varnish fluoresces but no inpainting is apparent. The work is in excellent condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

After the Prussian siege of Paris in 1871, Sisley decided to move with his family to the village of Louveciennes, situated on the river Seine, about thirty kilometers west of the capital, and in the winter of 1874 they moved to the neighbouring Marly-le-Roy. He also painted in all of the nearby towns along the Seine, including the industrial town of Billancourt, site of the present work.  He was particularly fascinated by the beauty of the Seine valley, and took delight in painting this new environment, trying to capture the effects of the season, weather and time of day on the countryside, and experimenting with the effects of light and color.

Writing about Sisley's paintings executed in this region, Vivienne Couldrey observed, "In the area of Louveciennes along the valley of the Seine he found waiting for him the kind of landscape he was to love all his life. Westward from Paris the Seine winds in large loops through Suresnes, Villeneuve-la-Garenne, Argenteuil, Bougival, Sèvres, Ville d'Avray, Louveciennes, Noisy-le-Roi, Port-Marly; the villages are strung along the river, clustered around Versailles. It is an area rich in historical associations. The Sun King, Louis XIV, chose to make Marly a haven of rural peace and repose to escape from the intrigues and power struggles of Versailles, but he imposed on its simple life the formal landscaping and monumental magnificence of his era" (Vivienne Couldrey, Alfred Sisley, The English Impressionist, Exeter, 1992, p. 33).

As he ceased to exhibit at the Salon after 1877, Sisley's art of the following years shows a considerable change in style. Freed from the constraints of the existing canon, his compositions became more complex, with less emphasis on recession and perspective, and a shift towards the expressive power of his brushstrokes and interlocking patterns. Le Lavoir de Billancourt shows a floating washing house, where locals would pay a small fee to wash their clothes directly in the river.  The painting is a remarkable example of this newly found spontaneity in application of paint: the artist builds his composition by placing layers of pigment on top of each other, applied in quick brushstrokes in varying directions, and in this way creates a richly textured surface saturated with color.

The poet Mallarmé wrote the following about Sisley's talent for capturing the nuances of the land in his pictures from the 1870s: "Sisley seizes the passing moments of the day; watches a fugitive cloud and seems to paint it in its flight; on his canvass [sic] the live air moves and the leaves yet thrill and tremble.  He loves best to paint them in spring ..., or when red and gold and russet-green the last few fall in autumn; for then space and light are one, and the breeze stirring the foliage prevents it from becoming an opaque mass, too heavy for such an impression of mobility and life" (S. Mallarmé, 'The Impressionists and Edouard Manet,' The Art Monthly Review, 1876, translated from the French and reprinted in R. Shone, Sisley, New York, 1992, pp. 118-122).

Fig. 1 Alfred Sisley, Le Seine à Grenelle, 1878, Oil on canvas, Denver Art Museum