The very name Durand-Ruel conjures a world of artistic associations, taking us back to the age of Impressionism, to an era of privileged transactions and enduring dialogues between painters and their pioneering dealers. The two paintings presented on the following pages by Sisley and Pissarro come from the private collection of the mythical Durand-Ruel family and bear witness to their extraordinary legacy. The ground-breaking dealer Paul Durand-Ruel discovered these artists in the early 1870s, before the Impressionist movement had been given a name. He organised some of the first-ever exhibitions of their work at a time when they were being rejected by the official Salon. For many years he was the only one who passionately supported and defended these artists, regularly purchasing and promoting their paintings and exhibiting them internationally first in Europe and then in New York. During his career Paul Durand-Ruel significantly developed the role of the art dealer, playing a key role in the success of Impressionist art worldwide, thus changing the course of art history and paving the way for today’s international art market.
The two paintings presented here have not been offered to the market since their acquisition by Paul Durand-Ruel over a century ago. They have not been seen in public for more than 50 years and have been wonderfully preserved for future generations.
Note for this lot
At the end of the 1870s, Alfred Sisley moved to a small village near Moret-sur-Loing, 75 kilometers southwest of Paris. The relocation was significant; whereas for much of the preceding decade he had been based in the western Parisian suburbs, by moving to Moret, two hours from the capital by train, he was renewing his ties with the region around Fontainbleau forest where he had spent his formative years with his friends Monet and Renoir, following in the footsteps of the artists of the Barbizon School such as Théodore Rousseau and Charles Daubigny. He found the picturesque village of Saint Mammès, where the rivers Loing and Seine converged, to be particularly inspiring, and he would paint the subject many times in the years that followed. The resulting riverside views, of which this canvas is a fine example, came to define his personal approach to Impressionism, characterized by a profound sense of place and unique flair for capturing the subtle poetry of his surroundings. The contemporary critic Julien Leclercq saw these compositions as the most serenely accomplished of the artist’s career, admiring “this path, at the river’s edge…so original, so carefully chosen with its tall, evenly spaced poplar trees, so graceful and light. A peacefulness of the soul prevails in these works, a purity and clarity that, as a young man, the painter had intuitively sensed. It is a liberated, candid, poetic art, which bears witness to a dreaming spirit, an enchanted eye and an intelligent hand” (Julien Leclercq, "Alfred Sisley" in La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. XXI, March 1, 1899, p. 236).
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