Lot 9
  • 9

Alfred Sisley

Estimate
1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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Description

  • Alfred Sisley
  • Fin d'après-midi à Moret
  • Signed Sisley (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 23 5/8 by 28 3/4 in.
  • 60 by 73 cm

Provenance

Marcel Bernheim, Paris

Galerie Paul Pétridès, Paris

Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above on November 24, 1955)

Thence by descent 

Catalogue Note

Fin d’après-midi à Moret, painted in 1891, is wonderfully characteristic of Sisley’s Impressionist approach to painting en plein air, in which he focused on the play of light and atmosphere. The gentle afternoon breeze rustling through the tree-lined riverbanks is beautifully rendered by the artist's staccato brushstrokes. The motif of poplars planted along rivers and roads is one which distinguishes the French countryside, and one which Sisley depicted on many canvases during the same period as the present work. In 1880 Alfred Sisley settled with his family in the village of Moret-sur-Loing, fifty kilometers south of Paris, on the edge of the Forest of Fontainebleau. On August 31st, 1881 he wrote to Monet: “Moret is two hours journey from Paris, and has plenty of places to let at six hundred to a thousand francs. There is a market once a week, a pretty church, and beautiful scenery round about. If you were thinking of moving, why not come and see?” (quoted in Sisley (exhibition catalogue), Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1966).  

Sisley remained in Moret until his death in 1899, and it was here that his work achieved its final flowering; incorporating both his favorite compositional motifs, such as the receding avenue of trees, and a distinctly post-impressionist approach to applying paint. Although it is Sisley who is most closely associated with the town, it attracted many other artists, including Pissarro who painted a number of works there in 1901 and 1902. The surrounding landscape of Moret provided limitless variation and opportunity for painting. Visible in the background of the present work is the old bridge at Moret-sur-Loing, which links the historic town center with the road to Saint-Mammés and is also the principal feature of a number of other paintings of this period. Gustave Geffroy wrote about Sisley’s obsessive mapping of Moret’s surroundings and landmarks: “And here is Moret bridge, the mill, the three poplars that Sisley so often celebrates… The atmosphere is pure and fresh; the masses of the houses and trees are clearly outlined in the pure air, with no halo of mist or of refracted sunlight. The rustic bridge arches the river to either side of the mill, behind are houses with cosy roofs, low, countrified buildings, a dense wood, three giant poplars. Reeds lean over at the water’s edge. A calm sky, with milk-white nimbus clouds unmoved by any breath of air. The bank is green, the bridge and houses are in harmonies of violet, closer to pink than to blue. The Loing, clear, transparent, unwrinkled, expansive, reflects stones and greenery, clouds and reedbeds. The river is as deep as the sky; it has the same wealth of forms as the landscape that it mirrors” (quoted in Alfred Sisley (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, p. 234).

The town itself, however, was not Sisley’s primary subject, as Richard Shone explains: “The fame of Moret rested not so much on what was found inside the town but on the view it presented from across the Loing. Old flour and tanning mills clustered along the bridge; the river, scattered with tiny islands, seemed more like a moat protecting the houses and terraced gardens that, on either side the sturdy Porte de Bourgogne, in turn defended the pinnacled tower of the church. Add to this the tree-lined walks along the river, the continuous sound of water from the weir and the great wheels of the mills, the houseboats and fishermen, and there was, as every guidebook exclaimed, 'a captivating picture', a sight 'worthy of the brush'. These supremely picturesque aspects of Moret left Sisley unabashed” (R. Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, p. 159).

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