- Alfred Sisley
- Route à Louveciennes
- signed Sisley and dated 74 twice (lower right)
- oil on canvas
Private Collection, France (by descent from the above. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 21st June 2004, lot 4)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Alfred Sisley, 1971, no. 20, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Marly-le Roi - Louveciennes, Musée Promenade, De Renoir à Vuillard, Marly-le-Roi, leurs environs, 1984, illustrated in the catalogue
François Daulte, Alfred Sisley. Paysages, Lausanne & Paris, 1961, no. 10, illustrated in colour p. 23
François Daulte, Sisley, Milan, 1972, illustrated in colour p. 29
Alfred Sisley (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, no. 69, illustrated p. 118
During his time there, Sisley painted a number of scenes of the village, its winding streets and tree-lined roads (fig. 1), and often went for long walks to the neighbouring Villeneuve-la-Garenne, Argenteuil and Ile de la Grande-Jatte, exploring the region in search of new subjects. This setting provided Sisley with a new creative impetus and, once settled, he started working with fresh energy. He explored the beauty of the Seine valley, and took delight in painting this new environment, trying to capture the effects of season, weather and time of day on the countryside, and experimenting with the effects of light and colour. While other Impressionist painters such as Monet and Renoir preferred to depict summery scenes and sunny landscapes, it was Sisley and Pissarro who discovered the wintry scenery in the Louveciennes region, and took pleasure in painting the streets, houses and trees covered in snow (figs. 2 & 3). Sisley distinguished himself during this period; using a most innovative palette and unusual perspectives, quite different from those of Pissarro. As Joel Isaacson comments: 'Sisley's paintings of the 1870s offer some extraordinary riches: bold, inventive compositions that were not matched by his colleagues, save Caillebotte, who may have learned from Sisley, numerous paintings, in landscape settings, or rural labor and occupations; and a feeling for delicate and often artificial colour combinations - plays of complements (mainly orange and blue), a preference for blues and pinks and subtly varied grays - that often seem to depart from the coloration offered by nature' (J. Isaacson in Impressionists in Winter - Effet de neige (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1998, no. 74).
Sisley became a devoted painter of snow in Louveciennes. The sometimes bombastic effects of his contemporaries and their summertime landscapes, find their perfect contrast in the tranquil beauty of Sisley's snow scenes. Writing about Sisley’s landscapes executed during his stay at Louveciennes in the early 1870s, Vivienne Couldrey commented: ‘Sisley first began to paint snow scenes at this time, attracted by the strange lights and colours of the snow which was never simply white, and by the way snow transformed a landscape, gave an amazing stillness that was ethereal, other-worldly. Something in Sisley responded to the melancholy of the bare trees, the frozen countryside, and the special silence of snow. His choice of subject is still the road to the village between walls or trees or curving away between houses, and the subtle colouring of the sky, with the snow bright on the rooftops or shadowed under the bare trees’ (V. Couldrey, Alfred Sisley, The English Impressionist, Exeter, 1992, pp. 41 & 44).
The house on the right of the present composition is the one that was occupied by Sisley and his family on a bend of the gently descending rue de la Princesse. The street was bordered on one side by the park belonging to the château of Madame du Barry, a mistress of Louis XV, who had lived at Louveciennes in the second half of the 18th century, and on the other side by cottages, orchards and vegetable gardens. In 1873-74 Sisley executed a number of paintings of the house, as well as views from its first floor balcony. Route à Louveciennes reflects the artist’s fascination with the simple, quiet charm of the street covered in snow, its blue undertones conveying the icy winter air. Here, the subtle pink glow of the sky indicates dusk, and as the darkness of the winter evening settles upon the village, the only visible signs of life are the two figures in the doorway.