- Alfred Sisley
- 款識：畫家簽名 Sisley 並紀年84（右下）
Private Collection, The Netherlands (acquired circa 1935)
F. C. Glazener, Eindhoven (by descent from the above. Sold: Christie's, London, 3rd December 1984, lot 9)
Richard Green Ltd., London
Private Collection, New York
Richard Green Ltd., London (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby’s, London, 20th June 2005, lot 11)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Painted in 1884, the present composition depicts the landscape around Saint-Mammès, a small village situated at the confluence of the rivers Seine and Loing, just north of Moret-sur-Loing. Sisley first moved to Veneux-Nadon near Moret-sur-Loing with his family in 1880, and continued to live in that area for the rest of his life, moving several times between the two villages. The local scenery offered a constant source of inspiration to the artist, who tried to capture the relationship between land, water and sky as well as the changing effects of light on his surroundings. Having painted numerous views of the bridge, river bank and quayside of Saint-Mammès in 1880-81, Sisley then focused his attention on Le Loing and its canal, which joined the Seine at Saint-Mammès, and between 1882 and 1885 he executed a series of works depicting this area.
This view of the river Loing is one of a number of works which feature the sparsely populated outskirts of Saint-Mammès (figs. 1 & 2). For the present work, Sisley set his easel across the river from Saint-Mammès, giving him a receding view of the river and the houses lining the bank. In her discussion of Sisley’s paintings executed in the area, Vivienne Couldrey noted: ‘It is difficult to over-emphasise the importance of Moret, for Sisley painted most of his life’s work in the area […]. It is an essentially Impressionist place with the gentle light of the Ile de France, the soft colours and the constantly changing skies of northern France. There are green woods and pastures, curving tree-lined banks of rivers, canals and narrow streams, wide stretches of the river where the Loing joins the Seine at Saint-Mammès, old stone houses, churches and bridges’ (V. Couldrey, Alfred Sisley, The English Impressionist, Exeter, 1992, p. 68).
During this period, Sisley's technique continued to evolve, bringing a new complexity to his engagement with the landscape: ‘Sisley's art did not stand still during his last two decades, and modifications to his technique, palette and approach to subject matter were certainly introduced. For example, it was in the Saint-Mammès river scenes of 1881 that he began to analyse the various sections of a landscape through the application of different types of brushstroke. Or again, he realized the full potential of using a specific type of brushstroke and quality of paint to identify the mood of a landscape, be it thin, flat strokes of dry, almost chalky paint to convey a becalmed, crisp winter day, or bolder, more fully laden strokes of pigment let down with more oil to capture the shimmering heat of a mid-summer day’ (Sylvie Patin in Alfred Sisley (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1992, p. 183). However, as William R. Johnston warns, it is hard to pinpoint a particular incidence when Sisley might have had the opportunity to acquaint himself with certain Neo-Impressionist paintings: ‘it is unclear as to how he might have made contact with this elaboration of Impressionism, first presented to the public in La Baignade [1884, painted by Seurat]. From the documentary evidence, it would appear that from 1883 to 1889, he remained at Les Sablons, dogged by ill-health and acute financial worries. He may, however, have made brief trips to Paris where, rather than studying Seurat’s work at first hand, he discussed the new technique with Camille Pissarro, by then a committed advocate of Neo-Impressionism’ (W. R. Johnston, ibid., p. 206). In the present work, Sisley’s systematic application of paint seems less concerned with ocular illusions and colour theories than the sensations it conveys. The composition concentrates the viewer's eye on the middle ground with its carefully applied details; as the light moves away from the horizon line, the brushwork becomes more vigorous, deftly communicating the hazy heat of the afternoon.