PAINTED LIGHT: WORKS FROM A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN COLLECTION SOLD TO BENEFIT CHARITABLE CAUSES
The village of Saint-Mammès was ideally situated on the confluence of the Seine and the river Loing, seventy kilometers upstream from Paris. As the meeting point of all the waterways crossing central France, from its earliest days the town’s fortunes were inextricably linked with the river. Thanks to its strategic location, it became one of the foremost centers of barge activity in the region, and for a long time played a significant role in the history of the inland waterways. Although Sisley never lived in the village of Saint-Mammès, he was certainly attracted to this region, and to the painterly possibilities it offered him. As the critic Gustave Geffroy wrote in 1923: “He sought to express the harmonies that prevail, in all weathers and at every time of day, between foliage, water and sky, and he succeeded… He loved river banks; the fringes of woodland; towns and villages glimpsed through the old trees; old buildings swamped in greenery; winter morning sunlight; summer afternoons” (G. Geffroy, “Sisley” in Les Cahiers d’aujourd’hui, Paris, 1923, n.p.).
Sisley, like Monet, continued to explore and develop the Impressionist style during the 1880s and 1890s. It was towards the end of the 1870s though that his brushwork became more vigorous and his palette more varied. Richard Shone wrote that “Sisley worked in all seasons and weathers along this beautiful and still unspoilt bank of the Seine. Its topography gave him new configurations of space in which far horizons combined with plunging views below; the horizontals of skyline, riverbank and receding path are overlaid by emphatic verticals and diagonals to produce densely structured surfaces. This becomes particularly evident in his landscapes painted in winter or early spring, before summer foliage obscured these far-reaching lines of vision. It is then, too, that Sisley’s skies assume a greater variety and grandeur. With more subtlety than before, he determines the exact relation of the sky to the silhouette of the land. He knows how to differentiate its planes, order its clouds, diminish or enlarge its scope to produce a harmony inseparable from the landscape below” (R. Shone, Sisley, London, 1992, p. 135).
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